It’s becoming more and more conventional a ‘style transfer’ from home decor to yachting, a glamourous habit that however has to respect different technical performances demanded in fabrics for yachting. New technologies derived from the aerospace and automotive industries represent a solution.
Yachts are increasingly closer in the spaces and decor to homes, design elements, furnishings and above all fabrics are increasingly transverse. But fabrics, unlike other furnishings and elements, if they are to be transferred to yachting, must meet certain requirements, often defined by very stringent and detailed regulations. One of the main characteristics regulations laid on for fabrics, both for interiors and exteriors, is resistance to fire. On this topic RINA, in its certification criteria, refers to the “International Code for Application of Fire Test Procedures (FTP Code) of the IMO – (International Maritime Organization), the United Nations agency responsible for safety at sea and prevention of marine pollution by shipping.
The International Maritime Organization lays down rules at international level for the performance of materials, while locally, in Europe, the regulation of reference is Directive MED (96/98/CE). The Convention is structured into a series of chapters and rules that seek to deal exhaustively with the various aspects of safety in a particular environment like a ship and, more generally, boats. The Rina, in its certification procedure, identifies the field of application, that is the materials the rule should be applied to:
1. Noncombustible materials
2. Materials that limit the spread of flames and with low specific optical density and toxicity of combustion products for use on bulkheads, ceilings, decks and substrate for deck cladding
3. Textile and nontextile materials suspended vertically
4. Padding for seats
5. Bed linen
As often happens, yachting becomes a transfer sector. Many fabrics, initially used for architecture and tensile structures, with high resistance to external agents and offering UV protection, are later adapted to the requirements of the yachting market.
Today any fabric exposed to the sun, all which must provide shade (canopies, fabric hardtops, covers etc.) is accompanied by a certification of its UV protection factor.
To measure the UV filtering capacity of fabrics there is a factor identified by the acronym UPF (UV Protection Factor), a number comparable to the SPF protection factor of sun creams. The UPF of the fabric tells us for how many hours, protected by that fabric, we can remain exposed to the sun to receive the same dose of solar radiation we would receive if we were not protected by the fabric. To clarify the meaning of protection factor, we can say that a membrane with a UPF of 50 allows only one UV ray out of 50 to pass through it, that is it blocks 98% (49/50) of UV radiation. The UPF value of the fabric can only be tested in the laboratory and is specified by several regulations, two of which are the UNI EN 13758-1:2007 and the UNI EN 13758-2:2007, concerning Italy and Europe.
It is correct to consider that every fabric has a UPF value that does not depend on specific treatments, but exclusively on certain intrinsic characteristics of the fabric, for instance the colour of the fabric (dark colours increase the UPF value) or the porosity of the fabric (the greater the porosity the higher percentage of UV rays pass through).
Later treatments obviously further improve the characteristics of the fabric. We are talking about lamination, spreading of filtering films, but above all the latest frontier in innovation: nanotechnology.
There are fabrics (used for cockpit seating) that keep the temperature of the seat noticeably lower than environmental temperature.
Fabrics which, thanks to nanotechnologies, are water repellent and stain proof and thus make boat maintenance much easier. Thanks again to nanotechnologies where resistance has increased, as has colour resistance despite exposure to solar radiation.
Waterproofing on board is an important characteristic, but so too is having fabrics that breathe to prevent night-time humidity remaining in the padding and creating mould, increasing the life of the fabrics.
In fact today in addition to these very technical and important specifications, the quality perceived by the end user on a boat is dictated by other factors, linked Leicester safety and more to comfort and decor. Very technical fabrics which, despite their high technological performance, still have a look and feel that is very pleasant and close to those commonly used in interior design.
By now yachts are increasingly close to houses, and the expectations of the owner are to find on board a part of the home where he lives every day.
Nanotechnologies help to improve the characteristics of fabrics or to give them completely new performance. There are already several products on the market with special waterproofing properties, that resist oil and dirt (easy-to-clean) and combat bacteria and mould. Then too there are fabrics that protect from UV radiation.
One of the properties most requested in yachting fabrics is waterproofing, dirt resistance and self-cleaning. To meet these requirements, the fabric must be structured so that the water readily forms drops and carries away dust and dirt. Fabrics such as curtains, sunshades and covers remain cleaner longer, because dust and impurities are easily washed away by rain or with ordinary washing with freshwater in port.
Many companies in the textile sector have transfers production ranging from home decor to yachting with specific product lines. This is the case of Sunbrella, which has improved the performance of its range of external fabrics the yachting. With Protection Collection, which includes the ranges Source and Optimum, for making covers, canopies, protection coverings etc., Sunbrella has used an efficient technology that makes it possible to tackle the toughest conditions in the marine environment. These fabrics can be washed with bleach and inhibit fungus and mould.
Tessilmare fabrics, like many others on the market, use a bi-coated production technique, spreading or laminating on both sides of the fabric. This makes it possible to improve the inherent technical characteristics but also to implement others.
Some fabrics are improved with Teflon, like the Tempotest Marine line, which guarantees waterproofing with a specific process. Teflon® EXTREME treatment gives this fabric significant water and oil repelling characteristics. Teflon® makes cleaning easier, simplifies stain removal and speeds drying. The particular finish also favours stain removal and the dyeing of the fabric resists discolouring due to sun, water and atmospheric agents generally.