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Foam Technology 'Cutting Edge'

Christchurch company Butler Marine Ltd, with funding assistance from Technology New Zealand, is developing foam-cutting technology that could boost already promising export sales.

Director John Butler says the foam is made in 1-metre by 2-metre "buns" that are 40mm thick. These are split into sheets of varying thickness, then shapes are stamped from the sheets to make things such as kickboards for teaching swimming, trampoline pads and life-jacket flotation panels.

"But there has never been a method to create profiled lengths," Mr Butler says.

The new technology being developed by Butler Marine has allowed the company to create complex shapes from dimensions up to 1m wide, 500mm deep and up to 7.5m in length.

"This has enabled us to supply a superior product and establish a growing export business for things as diverse as head and armrest impact protection rolls for a bus manufacturer, through to patrol boat fenders for South Korean, Queensland coastguard and Australian pilot boats," Mr Butler says.

He says the research project will include developing a computer program to automate the cutting process. It is hoped the resulting boost in technological capability through the Technology for Business Growth scheme will mean a better product, quicker manufacturing times and greater efficiency.

"Getting it right has been an art form. This project will enable us to turn an art form into an exact science and into saleable technology, while also allowing us to continue to sell the product."

The South Korean order came from a South Korean shipbuilder, through a naval architect in Auckland. The initial order is for five 7.7-metre craft and may be followed by an order for 25 larger vessels.

-ends-

Contact: * John Butler, managing director, Butler Marine Ltd, 275 Ferry Rd, Christchurch. Ph: (03) 389-0077. Fax: (03) 389-0077. Email: butlermarine@xtra.co.nz * Ian Gray Technology New Zealand at the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (Auckland Office), (09) 912-6730, or 021 660-409. Website: www.technz.co.nz

Prepared on behalf of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology by ID Communications. Contact: Ian Carson (04) 477-2525, ian@idcomm.co.nz


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