API tracker allows custom-built ship decks to be measured and inspected 70% faster

Wolz Natic 3Wolz Nautic were looking for a measurement system that it could use on board to measure the length and transverse curvature of the deck. After a test phase, they chose the API tracker for it accuracy and its lightweight portablility.

The teak deck acts as a business card for boats. Manufactured by hand from high-quality Burma teak wood and is adapted to the individual form of the boat. Unfortunately teak decks often have many listed complaints, unless the teak deck comes from the production of Wolz Nautic in the Frankish Gaukönigshofen in Germany.

Craft producer brothers Michael and Andreas Wolz manufactured 5000 teak decks last year, a handicraft product with high requirements on quality and a project which employs 200 people. Above all, customers come from the shipyards of the upper-middle class boat sector, who expect absolute accuracy for the decks of their boats.

Each joint must resemble the other and the exterior must be parallel to GRP (glass-fiber reinforced plastic) on the vessel´s side. Orders for this deck specialty come from all over Europe. The majority of the project is accomplished in Gaukönigshofen in Germany, however Wolz Nautic employees travel to the respective shipyard at least twice.

Templates from plywood, which are adapted accurately to the boat are created during the first on-site appointment. The templates are already pre-milled, based on the CAD data of the boat. However, the fine tuning must be completed locally, as the CAD data does not often agree with the actual dimensions of the boat. The templates are then measured again in the workshops of Wolz Nautic. The teak deck is manufactured in the production hall based on these measurements. The aim is to produce the deck in one piece when this is possible.“Each splice is bad for the visual appearance, therefore we divide the teak deck into as few parts as possible”, explains Michael Wolz, one of the two Managing Directors at Wolz. The individual components are up to 13.5 meters long, and this is the maximum size which they can be transported by truck to the shipyard. During the second visit to the shipyard, assembly errors such as bubbles and delays on the teak deck can be quickly avoided with the help of patented procedures. The fact that this procedure works demonstrates the extremely low complaint ratios, which according to Michael Wolz are very unusual for teak decks.

Wolz Natic 4Accuracy is a must!

The individual deck components must have an exact accuracy over the entire length, however two or three millimeters difference is acceptable, although the aim is to have less than a millimeter. “With metal this default would not be acceptable, but for wood an accuracy of less than a millimeter is a very demanding resolution”, describes Michael Wolz. In addition, the bends must correspond exactly to the original, which represents a challenge with wood. For this reason the templates are transported back to the shipyard, even those with errors are added to the template`s plywood as they react to environmental influences such as humidity and temperature, which can falsify the measured values.

Measurement system solves templates

Wolz Nautic decided to look around for a precise measurement system, which could be used instead of the templates, in order to minimize inaccuracy due of the material wood and to prevent errors. Furthermore, the template procedure is very time-consuming as the templates must be machined for employment with drills, this capacity is missing in the manufacturing process. It takes about one week until the templates are manufactured and fitted to the boat, which is another good reason is to replace this traditional procedure. Wolz Nautic were looking for a measurement system, which could be flexibly used on the boat and which could measure also the length and transverse curvature of the deck with the required accuracy. After a detailed test phase the API Laser Tracker was selected. The final deciding factor for the Laser Tracker was its accuracy, its great transportability as it is so light weight. This was essential for Wolz Nautic so that the Laser Tracker can be easily transported whether it be by car or by aircraft.

Wolz Natic 5Trial period mastered with Bravour

The Laser Tracker has been in use at Wolz Nautic since September 2006. The templates which were already measured in the early stages, in order to make itself familiar with the technology and the possibilities of this measurement system. Just simply with this production step a saving of time from 60 to 70 per cent could be achieved.

Both procedures are still used for the time being on-site on the boat, i.e. the Laser Tracker removes the mass from the boat; and adapted templates are used parallel to this. The Laser Tracker demonstrates its full strengths even with restrained available space on the boat. Larger objects can be measured from the shortest distance. The head of the Laser Tracker can be swivelled horizontal +/- to 320 degrees and vertically +80 to -60 degrees, so that the measurement system can be positioned near to the place which needs to be measured. The 3D measurement system then calculates the coordinates over both angles.

Even several position changes are not an issue with its light weight of 8.5kg and a head size of 36 cm. The head system of the Laser Tracker is constructed in such a way that the laser beam is not diverted by a mirror nor by a light conductor. Systemic measurement inaccuracies due to returning errors are reduced thereby to a minimum. Highlights of the API Laser Tracker alongside the marginal measurements include: there is no smaller Laser Tracker available world-wide, as well as with a measurement range of 120m, without the need to change the location of the system.

Wolz Natic 2The right system was selected

Michael Wolz is very happy with the Laser Tracker: “The investment was worthwhile as the measurement system fits our range. It is portable, resistant and precise”. The direct employment of the Laser Tracker in the shipyards meant an enormous gain in time for Wolz Nautic. According to Michael Wolz shipyards are not so strictly organized in the process cycle as for example a car manufacturer. So every one day of flexibility is extremely valuable for Wolz Nautic. In the past the craftsmen had to work to the highest

limit and delays were not allowed. Within six weeks after the incoming order a teak desk was finished to customer satisfaction. This time target is already very good, and it is not in Michael Wolz`s interest to shorten this time interval. The goal is much higher, to have more free time between the single project steps and when required, to be able to work on different projects parallel to one another, raising cost efficiency. Also an argument for the Laser Tracker was not just the shortening of the extent of the project, but the possibility of being able to work more flexibly and more efficiently.

Good customer service

A reason for the success of the Laser Tracker at Wolz Nautic is the good co-operation with API. “To buy high class technology does not automatically mean high class service; we are however completely satisfied with the Aftersales service at API”, summarizes Michael Wolz. The Managing Director understands the technology and the potential of the equipment. For arising questions or problems Wolz Nautic can rely on API`s telephone hotline. This permanent customer service is an example of the increasing operational level of readiness of API in Europe. “At the end of 2005 we began with two people in Europe, by the end of 2006 were we seven, and in 2007 a further five people will be employed”, explains Marc Keinert, General Manager European Sales at API. During the last 20 years API has concentrated on the development of technology and assigned marketing licenses. In the future, marketing is to be enlarged. In addition, a German has been employed as Vice President for Marketing and Sales, which shows that API headquarters in Maryland, USA recognizes the potential of European market.

Innovation price

API is innovatively growing into the European market; and presents itself as a good partner for Wolz Nautic. The European Sailing Boat magazines nominated in 2006 for the first time the innovation price for a sailing boat, and the price was won by Boat Shipman 50, which was manufactured by Seaway Group in Slovenia. The teak deck and the bulwark of the winning boat came from Wolz Nautic.