Making dreams reality
KAEFER Shipbuilding - Germany
Making a yacht takes skill, dedication and passion. Plus, a healthy dose of glass fibre-reinforced plastic (GRP). Find out how the KAEFER Shipbuilding team goes about creating the stuff of dreams.
Most people wouldn’t associate GRP with exclusive yachts. These floating palaces tend to evoke images of fine wood, luxurious leather and sculpted metal. Yet KAEFER Schiffsausbau’s in-house Plastics Workshop (Kunststoffwerkstatt – KSW) in Germany uses synthetic materials to allow yacht designers the freedom to make ever more elaborate and emotional creations. On top of that, the materials created in the workshop for use on the world’s most exclusive vessels is high-performance, high technology and designed to withstand even the most extreme environments.
Exterior furniture & ceiling on the Kismet yacht
Working in-house simply works
Back in 2003, KAEFER received its first commission to build a yacht. The team around Holger Simon (who has now retired) was considering how best to approach creating the exterior decks and exterior ceiling cladding and decided to do it all in house, rather than having to rely on sub-contractors. “We started with aluminium honeycombs, which were filled and troweled”, Simon recounts. “Over the years we arrived at our current plug-in ceiling cladding system, which is patented, and also available as a click system, offering designers even greater variety in terms of what they can create.” The team, now led by Ansgar Lübbers, then got thinking about what more they could do and decided to try their hands at exterior furnishings.
It is all created in-house, from construction and assembly to painting and finishing. At KSW alone, there are carpenters, boat builders, painters and plastics mechanics – all specialists in their fields and all able to provide the highest levels of quality and expertise.
For example, outer decks are measured directly at the shipyard by the KSW team using a electronic 3D measurement system. It works by directing a laser on to a prism with the beam running along the outer edge of the yacht. The tracking of the laser beam is then converted into digital points and the designer uses them to define the contour of the outer skin of the vessel.
Electronic 3D measurement
When it comes to exterior furnishings, these need to withstand extreme conditions, such as UV radiation, saltwater and temperatures from sub-zero to +40 degrees. That's why all KAEFER exterior furnishing is sent to a dedicated climate chamber for tempering. This is to ensure that there is no reaction later, which is the big difference to yacht interiors, where there are constant temperatures and a more forgiving environment.
KAEFER's own, in-house production secures know-how within the company and also generates economic output within KAEFER.
All the work is done by one group of passionate professionals, from construction and fitting to painting and finishing. “I think it is important that KAEFER's own, in-house production secures know-how within the company and also generates economic output within KAEFER,” says KAEFER Schiffsausbau Managing Director Jürgen Trost. “It is fantastic to witness KSW’s development over the last few years and to see how proud our employees are of their products.”
Promoting both inner and outer beauty
Traditionally, owners and commissioners of yachts tended to focus on interiors when it came to making their sea-faring dreams reality. Nowadays, there is increasing emphasis on exteriors, with more extravagant decks and more individual furnishings and fittings. On top of that, the materials used for exterior furniture is also becoming much more varied. One example is artificial wood, which is used in cases where the desired design is impossible to make using real wood. Artificial surfaces are created, such as imitation oak, teak and mahogany, which are painted by hand by an artist.
KAEFER’s KSW is a team of craftspeople dedicated to the details that matter when it comes to luxury vessels. There is, of course, a desire to grow and to develop new technology and methods to continuously improve what can be offered to clients, regardless of whether that’s designers, builders or owners. In the end, though, a yacht is an expression of an individual’s personality and is a very emotional purchase. That’s exactly why the team at KAEFER’s KSW will go to great lengths to make dreams reality. Even if it sometimes involves suspending disbelief when it comes to the materials used.