Assembly interviews Dagher, Anderson for report on UMaine Composites Center

Assembly magazine interviewed Habib Dagher, executive director of the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center; and James Anderson, senior R&D program manager at the UMaine Composites Center; for an article about boatbuilding at the center. The UMaine Composites Center is continuing a long-standing tradition of boatbuilding in the state of Maine by using state-of-the-art additive manufacturing technology to propel the boatbuilding industry into the 21st century, the article states. The center features a 100,000-square-foot lab space where 70 full-time engineers work with materials from the molecular level to full-scale structures. For the past 18 years, the center has been developing plastics containing wood cellulose and nanocellulose fibers. “Now, we will use these same stronger and stiffer plastics in very large 3D printers to develop 20- to 100-foot molds for Maine boatbuilders,” Dagher said. “By printing plastics with 50 percent wood, we aim to produce boat molds much faster and cheaper than today’s traditional methods.” Dagher hopes to partner with boatbuilders to give the industry a competitive advantage and overcome challenges of cost and lead time required for traditional manufacturing, which can be a barrier to small- and medium-size boatbuilders. “Custom boatbuilders need a lot of tooling and molds, because they don’t make many vessels. Just about every product they make is different than the next,” said Anderson. “These companies are very traditional, but they’re also quite innovative. They’re interested in the benefits of using additive manufacturing technology.” The plastics the center has developed also reduce environmental impact and improve recyclability, according to Anderson. The UMaine Composites Center recently received a $500,000 grant from the Maine Technology Institute to develop advanced additive manufacturing technology, the article states.