Nanoparticles for Large Yachts

The unbearable lightness of technology

For this issue, we wanted to once again offer our readers at least two innovations that we might find on the yachts of tomorrow. Two or more products, two or more ideas – in short, our aim is to go in search of the embodiment of cutting-edge innovation and originality on a yacht. As usual, we investigated more than one area and were all ready to produce our feature, when one of the subjects we had chosen led us to the Italian company HNCF in Brescia, where a whole new world opened up. On talking to the owner and taking a look at the things that the technology we are about to describe has transformed into amazing objects with particularly smooth, robust surfaces, we realised that writing about this industrial process entails covering a huge variety of possible applications, which meant devoting the entire feature to it. We therefore decided to discuss nanoceramics only, because as our readers will discover below, this actually involves almost all the component elements of a yacht.

A yacht is a vessel made up of numerous different materials, processes and systems of varying levels of complexity used to move elements large and small

and to modify the functions of the various spaces as dictated by the needs of the moment.

No part of a yacht is not affected by technological development, because research in the many industrial fields that are directly or indirectly present on boats of varying sizes is constantly progressing.

On this occasion, we want to talk about something different from a product, actually an entire industrial process, one that is giving rise to completely new solutions – at least in the civilian world, as the technology we present here was the prerogative of

the military until fairly recently. We’re talking about nanoceramic surface treatments.

These are not simply special material coatings, but rather treatments of surfaces using an exclusive technology developed by Italian company HNCF, which holds international patents for the technology.

What is the result of treating the surfaces of various materials with the process we are about to describe? We went to the company’s facilities to get a better understanding, and discovered an infinite variety of possible applications. For example, we saw elegant glasses – made in accordance with the standard that prohibits the production of glass with too much

lead – that had been subjected to this treatment and therefore had tactile, acoustic and visual characteristics considerably superior to those of classic stem glasses

in pure glass.

More importantly, they had a reflective colouration that made them truly decorative elements which would harmonize chromatically with their intended environment. This is just one of the applications created by HNCF for a company that offers its products on board large yachts, and not only on them. As the pictures show, shapes and hues can be adapted to any environment, but what makes these glasses special is their surface, treated with a unique process that transforms simple glasses into truly exquisite objects.

We asked the company owner, Mauro Andreoli, a few questions and he explained:

Treating surfaces with HNCF’s proprietary technology arose in response to a need to solve mechanical problems in a military context. When we started work on our applications, we realised during the experimental phase that the results were actually well above expectations.

The glasses are one of many possible applications: with the process, we make these objects inalterable over time even if they undergo frequent washing which ruins the surfaces of normal glasses, even those of excellent quality. This is one problem that crews on large yachts face,

but with this treatment the lifespan increases very significantly, and it allows us to fulfil the client’s requests in terms of colour with treatments that create very unusual characteristics in the finished product. However, as I say, glasses are just one of the many applications we offer.”

The last sentence made us curious and we wanted to find out more:

As I mentioned before, the technology was developed for military requirements, for which experiments were carried out that have, over the years, allowed us to discover many advantages we had initially only theorised about.

Treating ceramics with nanoparticles makes the surfaces particularly smooth and self-lubricating. The nanoparticles cover, or rather merge with, the treated surface, insulating it completely from the external environment. In addition, nanoceramic treatment of materials such as aluminium not only offers the advantages you might imagine arising from a surface like the one described, but also provides such a great increase in strength that applications using this metal instead of others are possible. Based on this result, we have produced numerous parts for boats and large yachts in nanoceramic-treated aluminium instead of the usual steel. From a mechanical point of view, we have not lost any quality, but substantial weight savings have been achieved, surfaces have a high level of natural lubrication and they are resistant to the deterioration-inducing agents typical of the marine environment, as well as galvanic currents since they are electrically insulated. We can treat hinges, locks, mechanical joints, tracks

for sliding doors and windows, candlesticks and other elements, all of which prove to be inalterable on

boats and large yachts over time, and most importantly they do not require particular maintenance, unlike untreated materials.”

We asked what other possible applications there

might be:

In principle, this treatment provides the most effective currently available solution for all surfaces that need to be protected over time and are exposed to agents that cause deterioration. Then there are all the large and small surfaces subject to friction. By this I mean for example mechanical parts, which experience a drastic reduction in friction once they are treated, offering superior performance, a longer lifespan, and regularity

of operation. Then, for example, we have electric motors which may be connected to fans, which are elements that oblige designers and builders of a large yacht to bear in mind the noise and vibration they produce naturally. If the surfaces that act as ordinary bearings are treated with the nanoceramic process, however, then in addition to increasing their lifespan, it reduces friction and therefore noise and vibration. The applications on a large yacht are potentially infinite – we have already studied a great many and applied a great many more, for example in large winches on sailing boats to ensure more regular, lasting operation as well as a reduction in weight, because instead of steel, much lighter alloys were used, which have the same mechanical strength. When treated with the HNCF process, all the mechanisms for adjusting doors, windows, tables, televisions, and furniture that allows a space to be modified, no longer produce noise, do not lose their regularity of operation over time and offer much longer working lives, as well as a reduction in ordinary and extraordinary maintenance needs. You only need remember that one of the points we work on most often is ensuring the continuity of operation of exposed mechanical parts in difficult environments such as the marine environment. Consider the mechanics of the balconies that are now present on large yachts with increasing frequency.

Here, the treatment makes the surfaces of the parts inevitably involved in use inalterable over time and therefore capable of ensuring normal operation even

at the end of the season. Then there are all the small mechanical elements that are normally used to handle tenders and water toys, which undergo significant mechanical and environmental stress over the course

of a season. I think that on board a yacht, which is immersed in an environment unfavourable to the conservation of any material, nanoceramic treatment embodies a great opportunity for increased reliability as well as the inalterability of aesthetic appearance over time.

In my view, this aspect should not be neglected.

The glasses I showed you are one example of how simple elements can become objects that provide a

new experience to anyone who uses them, and they complement the furniture at the same time. We can manage the chromatic appearance with different colours and reflections, and while the tactile experience is very difficult to describe, it’s about surfaces that are especially smooth as they consist of nanoscale particles.

These physical characteristics give rise to numerous beneficial characteristics, even when the treatment is used on components below the water line. We have already studied propellers, bearings, pins and other elements in direct or indirect contact with sea water,

and obtained very interesting results, especially in relation to propellers, which become immune to a lot

of typical phenomena.”

It’s a technological revolution, one which is now available in the civilian world as well and which is focusing in particular on the nautical field, as it makes it possible to overcome numerous problems related

to salinity in the environment, and more besides. As with the glasses, where the variations are more aesthetic and tactile than functional, nanoceramic treatment opens up new horizons in the use

of materials. We wanted to get more detail and asked Mr Andreoli if the treatment could be used on particularly light alloys intended for fast vessels or those on which energy needs to be managed very intelligently.

We had a particular focus in mind with this question, as we were thinking of a small fast vessel, a water toy that we had been talking to a designer about, and as soon as the designer gives permission we will show it to our readers as well.

Mr Andreoli responded as follows:

Certainly, just think that we have taken magnesium parts into the sea. As you know, magnesium and sea water don’t really mix, but in spite of this after the treatment the propeller parts and supports that we produced are still working without any problems after a long time. What really makes the difference in this case is weight and rigidity, but in addition silt cannot stick

to the parts and performance is increased due to the reduction in friction.”

We started with glasses treated with nanoceramics and went on to discover numerous possible applications on board large yachts.

That’s really why we focused the entire feature on this subject – the glasses were just a lasting, glittering, smooth pretext.

Angelo Colombo


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