Visit to Kemppi to find the solutions and tools for welding the hull of aluminium sailboat

Few weeks ago I had a privilege to visit the headquarters and a factory of our local welding machine brand Kemppi. We had an interesting conversation related to Li Yachts project and of course about welding of aluminium. My visit was also the first milestone on the way of preparations towards construction of prototype boats. We have used Kemppi’s products in underwater welding dive operations and in refit work of our old aluminium yacht. So it was a logical move to contact Kemppi also within this ongoing project.

Founder of the company Martti Kemppi was an electrician and wanted to design a welding machine, which has great welding characteristics but it must be easy to use representing minimalistic design. A joy to weld with. We have the same approach to boat design – as a pioneer aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has written in 1939 ”Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” 

Kemppi is a Finnish family owned company, which still bears the surname of the founder and the company is still owned by the same family. Kemppi is founded in 1949 during tough times after the war. First products were carts for hauling concrete and milk. To produce these products the welding was needed and soon the clever electrician was building his own welding equipments.

During hectic post-war reconstruction of the country there was a demand of welding machines, which gave the young company the opportunity to grow. The production expanded and as early as 1950s Kemppi started to import welding machines to neighboring countries. Kemppi’s two main manufacturing plants are located in Finland, in addition to which it has one production plant for local Asian products in India. Kemppi has over 600 employees.

Now Kemppi is a globally operating company, which has retained the values of family owned business. The people that I met during my visit were easy to approach and they had time to listen my a story of my little project called Li Yachts and I received encouraging feedback.

Their welding engineer introduced me the new X8 MIG Welder. We were able to go straight to the details about methods how to reach for hight quality welds combined with effective productivity of the welding process. To me that represents the ability to understand demands and challenges of the customer.

With strong forward carrying guts in my mind I already imagined our first hull with the X8 beside her. My head was filled with thoughts how to rig the device to allow easy operation in different building steps of the hull. I also imagined the huge leap of welding technology compared to the machines that the builders of original Li have used fifty years ago.

The new generation of MIG welder allows even small scale manufacturers to exploit the benefits of the new aiding solutions for welding based on industrial Internet of things (IIoT). That’s possible when X8 is combined with Kemppi’s welding management software WeldEye. That ensures the use of optimal welding parameters and a quality control for the every seam. Errors in welding process caused by incorrect parameters are minimized. As-built weld traceability data can be stored as an annex of hull classification.

The wireless control pad of X8 allows the welder the full control of the machine and ability to view digital welding procedure specification (WPS) instructions via WeldEye on the worksite when ever needed. He or she is able to improve personal work process by saving fine tuned settings for further use to match up for the personal touch of welding. As we know, the aluminium boat is as strong as its weakest seam.

Here you can see new X8 in use in the factory of Buster Boats in Finland. Kemppi has also invited the boat manufacturer to take a part to design and development stages of X8 and welders were able to give user feedback of the product.

From sustainable development’s point of view Kemppi’s welding machines have high energy efficient inverter technology. Their products are designed with long service life in mind, but also recycling in the end of product’s life-cycle is taken into account when selecting materials. Machines are repairable and some of them even physically updatable. For example the power source of X8 is upgradeable.



Six months evolution of new sailboat concept design in pictures

When the year is coming to an end it’s time to look back to see what has happened and plan near future with full speed ahead.

We started in June based on my hand drawn notebooks and here we are now. Next step will be CFD-analysis of the hull and after minor improvements the cutting files for CNC will be produced. And then we are ready for proto series!

Images below describes best the progress of the design project.

At first the most fresh images – end of the year has gone well!

Explorer zentralschwert segelboot

Expedition centreboard sailboat

Frames and stringers added to the design

Design drawing yacht design

Li Yachts sailboat design process

Zero fossil fuels sailboat concept for ocean voyaging

3d-sketch of the hull after one more week of work

Drawing from notebook

Li Yachts 47 sketch

Sketch drawing of ocean expedition sailboat in notebook

Power of the blue moment

Days are getting shorter but in the design project we need to push forward and maintain the energy for the work.

There are many things in the design process that needs to be realized from sketches to real design. We also need to produce first rendered images of the boat to give people better idea of the concept.

Few fundamental arrangements will require lots of thinking. Just to mention one, cockpit is one of these. My basic idea was of course based of simplicity and safety – narrow sole with a tiller steering. In offshore there is nobody behind the wheel and in harsh conditions I prefer better support and safety of narrow cockpit. That also gives more space below and large volume lazarette under aft deck that would be lost with an open transom, which is needed with large cockpit with the wheel. For some people the wheel is a must, but obviously that won’t work with the same cockpit design with my original idea.

Sometimes it feels that there is too many things to consider and choices to make. Some might say that the solution would be just to design two options. Reality is that in the boat everything is connected to each others and that’s why changing one arrangement causes domino effect of changes – so designing two optional choices is not always the answer.

Basic principle that rises up every day is to keep in mind the right guideline answers to question “why”.

There are also thoughts that needs to be kept in background of mind in a project like this. If you let yourself to think too much about risks or for example challenges of proto boats you will lose visibility of the progress and waste the courage to go on.

After a walk and taking a few shots of beautiful blue moment of November’s fading day I was more focused again. The goal of opportunity to live onboard surrounded by these experiences of nature every day is pushing me forward!

Blue moment in shore of the Baltic Sea

Blue moment of short November's day at waters edge of Baltic Sea