27 / 01 / 2024

PROJECT AVACO. A distinctive and unique technology worldwide

The AVACO project aims at the automation of the manufacturing of composite frames for small and medium-sized boats (up to 50 m). To achieve this goal, it is essential to provide the shipbuilding industry with new advanced manufacturing processes capable of meeting not only the technical requirements of the components but also the needs of the transportation industry.

In this regard, AVACO is focused on optimizing the pultrusion process with ultraviolet (UV) curing outside the mold, which allows the manufacturing of curved composite profiles with high flexibility and a high degree of automation, addressing two of the most critical issues in the sector:

• Lightening structures through advanced materials, such as composites.

• Automating manufacturing processes through robotics and the use of alternative curing techniques (UV curing).

Regarding the first point, composites remain and will continue to be present on the strategic agendas of industries associated with the transportation sector, such as the naval industry. This is because composites are a key element in reducing environmental impact through structural lightening. In fact, the adoption of composites by the naval industry began in the 1950s and has been increasing ever since. An example of this is that most recreational boats, sailboats, patrol boats, or rescue vessels are manufactured with these materials (lengths of less than 50 meters).

Due to the high number of such vessels in European maritime transport, their environmental impact cannot be underestimated. It is essential to continue adopting solutions that encourage the sector to increase the use of composites in these vessels and even in larger vessels, leading directly to the second point.

Currently, the manufacturing of composite vessels is done in an extremely manual, almost artisanal manner. This involves high production costs due to the requirements of highly skilled labor, low production rates, or low-quality control, among others.

In this regard, if we examine the specific case of manufacturing the frames of a boat’s hull, the latter point becomes even more important, as each of the frames must have a different geometry to adapt to the shape of the hull. This requires the manufacturing of expanded polyurethane preforms, which are machined to the specified size, adhered to the boat’s hull, and then manually laminated.


This technique results in the over-sizing of the frames due to the low quality control during lamination, as well as the use of materials like expanded polyurethane that does not provide any benefit during the vessel’s lifespan. In fact, it can rot in service due to water infiltration.


Therefore, the introduction of manufacturing processes in the naval industry that allow the economically viable use of composites is crucial for the modernization of Basque and European shipyards. As mentioned at the beginning of this section, the UV pultrusion process allows the production of curved structural profiles with a high level of automation and production rate.

Achieving the goals of the AVACO project constitutes a notable technological challenge but also involves research and the generation of new knowledge in fields as important as advanced manufacturing, materials engineering, or robotics. Additionally, the implementation of UV pultrusion technology in the naval industry will signify a paradigm shift in the sector.

The reduction in manufacturing costs will lower the final cost for the customer, thus leading shipyards to increase their annual production of composite vessels. Consequently, this provides the Basque industrial sector with a differentiating technology that will be unique in the world.


“Action co-financed by the Basque Government and the EU through the European Regional Development Fund 2014-2020 (ERDF).”

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