Blogpost #2 2022 - Rafale ets Montreal
Rafale 3: Lead-Up to SuMoth Challenge
With the end of the manufacturing phase in sight, the team is more motivated than ever to prepare for this summer’s competition on Lake Garda. New exciting partnerships will allow the team to strengthen its ties on either side of the Atlantic and gain new knowledge in key areas.
The manufacturing of the Rafale 3 Moth has reached its denouement. The end of final exams meant renewed implication for many members, allowing the build process to accelerate in view of the ever-closer goal of the 2022 SuMoth Challenge.
Daggerboard and Rudder
Readers of our first blog post may recall the sinuous journey which was daggerboard manufacturing. In contrast, the making of the rudder was smooth sailing from start to finish. The team leaders took this opportunity to teach its new members how to process pre-impregnated carbon fibre, adhesive film, and foam core. Many students who joined back in September are now seasoned laminators, gluers, and finishers. This larger pool of experience is critical to the team’s internal knowledge transfer for long-term continuity.
Hydrofoil manufacturing was the culmination of three years of hard work. Since the initial concept was drafted in 2019, countless players have helped the project progress throughout each stage. Machining of the carbon fibre slab to make the wings was a critical step in this process. The team could count on Richard Bergeron, fellow student, and expert CNC machinist, to program the multiple setups and toolpaths needed to create the optimized wing shapes. Long process with many lessons learned. CFRP is a tricky material to machine. Its fibrous nature is like wood, but a lot more abrasive. The result is quite striking, and the team is looking forward to present it at the SuMoth event.
Hoisting the Sails
Many of the sailors on the team have been looking forward to this stage of the build process where the lines and blocks start to find their way onto the boat, finally making it look like a real sailboat. The excitement was brought to eleven when the sail was hoisted for the first time. As well as providing encouragement towards the completion of the project, this step also revealed key assembly issues which will have to be solved before testing can begin. Luckily, rig tuning is a task which sailor engineers happily indulge in.
We want to make our boat looks good as well as fast. A lot of time was spent in the sanding room buffing surfaces to a smooth finish. Wing bars, wand components, rudder gantry, verticals, and finally wings were put through the process.
Communication and Partnerships
Although the team is entering the final stages of production and tackling the first logistical stages of the departure for Italy, communications and partnership actions have never been so much in the foreground.
The communication division of Rafale has welcomed a second member dedicated almost exclusively to communication missions, in the person of Diane Limes, a French engineering student from “Arts et Métier” in exchange with ÉTS. To support the communication manager in the laborious tasks but also to be trained and to take good habits to be able to assume the role of communication and partnership manager for the horizon 2023! Thanks to her support, Rafale will have a new poster presenting the sponsors and a new series of outfits in our colors and with the specific functions of the members. She is also developing an innovative stand architecture, which will allow all those interested in our project and our history to come and learn simply and share their experiences with us amid several explanatory media.
As we can see, the dynamics of communication change with the progress of the project. The objectives deal less with making Rafale known in Canada or obtaining financial and material assistance. The team is now looking to prepare its demonstrative image for partners and other competitors while creating a professional, pleasant, and festive welcoming environment at the Foiling week site so that all the players in the competition remember Rafale positively and in all its aspects.
Other actions are in progress with a more local and short-term scope with the updating of the team’s website, the club’s Instagram, the writing of official documents. The most anticipated Montreal event will remain the unveiling of Rafale 3! Scheduled for the end of May at our partner Les Enfants du Rock and in the dedicated spaces of the ÉTS!
As announced in the first blog post, Rafale has set sail, far to the east, towards the city of La Rochelle, historically linked to Montreal and the nautical world for many centuries. The objective of this international communication is to create a pool of partners abroad, as a first home base which will then allow the obtaining of future partnerships through France and Europe. As such, many actions have been carried out and historic advances have been made or are in progress.
Skipper Lalou Roucayrol, sailing under the colors of Arkema in the Ocean Fifty or Class 40 classes, officially accepted our partnership on behalf of his company.
It was during the conference on “The Future of Ocean Racing” that Rafale ÉTS and Lalou Roucayrol met for the first time in person. Many topics were discussed such as new materials, the change of mentality concerning responsible sponsorship, university training, or the limits of the notion of record.
Rafale will therefore be able to count on the incredible technical contribution in terms of shaping composite materials or Arkema resin, naval architecture that we will communicate to the Lalou Multi teams. In exchange for this unprecedented source of knowledge, Rafale and the ÉTS have undertaken to provide a workforce to Lalou Multi through the creation of international internship offers via the offer portal of ÉTS. Smaller actions will also be offered by the Rafale club itself.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the partnership with the engineering consultancy giant AKKA Technologie is being finalized. A first smaller partnership with the regional division “New Aquitaine” (on which La Rochelle depends). The management of AKKA Nouvelle Aquitaine, in the person of Mr. Rémi Courdeau, is very proud that such projects have been implemented. This partnership will make it possible to count the AKKA Technologie group as a member of the team from 2022!
This first partnership will be the gateway to the biggest partnership the club has ever known with the AKKODIS group (merger of AKKA and MODIS). Indeed, already a motorsport partner with Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes, AKKODIS is turning to the competitive boating profession with skipper Pierre Legendre’s project to which Rafale is grafted and which should see the light of day in June 2022. The club will benefit therefore on the one hand of the budget allocated to Mr. Legendre in exchange for a large-scale agreement between the ÉTS and AKKODIS. This agreement would make it possible to carry out major recruitment campaigns, internship offers and the development of the company in Montreal for AKKODIS.
Aware that the values of team sport are universal, Rafale continues its negotiations with the Stade Rochelais. The city’s Rugby team playing in the European Cup and in the Top 14 (National Premier League), with several players playing in the French team (Champion of the 6 Nations tournament, 2nd world nation), Stade Rochelais is the luxury sports partner for Rafale. This partnership develops on several axes, including donated sports equipment, training in team spirit, cohesion, and strategy, as well as unprecedented visibility.
City of La Rochelle
To symbolically seal the cultural, sporting, and technical links between the two cities, a historic partnership with the city of La Rochelle and its elected officials is being carried out. Interested in the values of our project and our dynamism, they are ready to welcome the team at the end of the competition to salute our dedication to the nautical, sporting, and environmental cause.
Onboard Electronics and Data Collection
In the previous update, we gave a general overview of what our plans are for our embedded system and how we were working to achieve them. This winter the whole electronics team has been sadly very busy with internships and the progress has been slow, but we’re still on track to respect our objectives for a working data collection system for the races this summer. As it happens most of our internships ended at the end of April and we can focus fully on the system again.
Making a Working Minimum Viable Product
The system we are working towards, with its limited set of features, is technically a minimal viable product (MVP), or proof of concept for the team. As such we still have a few elements that we absolutely need to have working to call this system ready.
The first of these necessary elements is the data collection itself. We have all the sensors we will need for our MVP system, namely an IMU for acceleration and orientation data and a GPS for position and speed data. All that’s left to do for those is to integrate them in our python code base, but we have been able to run test scripts with them to validate that they’re working and that they will do the job. We still very much want to find a wind sensor, ideally ultrasonic, to add to the sensor package for our MVP, but we might have to delay that to our second version with Rafale 4 depending on time constraints.
The second necessary element is the onboard display. We want the skipper to be able to keep an eye on their speed and direction while racing if they feel the need. We were planning on making display modules and attaching them to the boom, but with time constraints we will begin with a web app that the skipper can pull up on their cellphone. Making actual displays is still very much a goal of ours and we will still push to attempt to have them for Rafale 3, but this other solution is simpler to implement.
The third necessary element is the shore communication. Many challenges are anticipated here, and that will take the most time and resources to properly test and implement. Without a shore communication link, we would deprive ourselves live boat monitoring. As with the sensors, we already have all the hardware for the shore link and have been able to run basic communication data through it. We still need to integrate it into the system itself.
The final necessary element is the data visualisation software. This is also a reason why the shore link is necessary because, without it, the visualisation software would only be useful to review races after the fact. This software is also slowly coming along, but we still need to implement most of its features, namely communication through the shore link and sending data to an offsite database.
This is still quite a big amount of work to be done, mostly programming. We expect to have working code integrated in the system for most sensors by the end of May. Implementing the shore link might take a week or two more but we should be able to use the month of June for testing and debugging the system and finishing the first version of the visualisation software.
Designing and Building for the Future
In the previous update we presented, we mentioned some of our plans for Rafale 4 and beyond, such as integrating force sensors and automatic flight control. We will hold a review and planning session in July to establish these plans and their timelines properly but until then they are still in the pipeline and thus, we will make sure that Rafale 3’s system is built in a way that allows it to be easily expendable and modular. This is primarily done with the way we have structured our code in a series of independent modules, to which we can add modules responsible for new sensors or any other tasks we need the system to do. This architecture will additionally allow us to replace some modules when needed, for instance if we need to change one of our sensors for a better version.
Rafale 4: Where to Begin?
With Rafale 4, more performance and durability are on the horizon. At the dawn of the launch of Rafale 3, the members of the team are already wondering about the characteristics of her successor: Rafale 4. Drawing on experience, tests carried out, and lessons learned, it is with solid foundations that the team decided to start this work with two key elements: the materials and the mould.
As far as materials are concerned, the criteria to keep in mind are durability, lightness, strength, and ease of implementation. Thus, the students plan to replace basalt fibers with natural fibers having a lower environmental footprint. Among the candidates: flax, bamboo or even hybrid compositions. To bind and protect these fibers thus forming a composite material, Elium resin is still one of the best contenders, but the difficulties encountered during its use prompted the team to consider other alternatives. The ideal resin would be at least 30% bio-sourced or even entirely natural, recyclable, easy to implement but above all compatible with the fibers chosen. Future work is thus divided into stages such as identifying the candidates, carrying out small-scale infusion tests and evaluating the relevance of the various options for the desired performance.
At the same time, other members of Rafale are working on the design of the next mould. If the old pine wood mold presented an undeniable ecological interest on paper, its practical use revealed some difficulties such as the absorption of humidity causing swelling and cracking requiring the use of protective coatings, a hefty invoice and recycling limited to incineration. With the school’s acquisition of a large-scale 3D printing machine, a new possibility is offered to students. The advantages of a printed mold are numerous and resonate with the search for sustainability. On-site manufacturing in collaboration with a polymer and composite materials research group would limit travel and promote knowledge sharing. Additionally, no coating that would compromise the recyclability of the mould would be required. The quantity of material would be reduced by the minimal milling required. Finally, the printing could be made from plastic pellets recovered from old moulds. Developing this process is a critical and relevant issue for student teams which mostly produce single-use moulds.
With manufacturing in the final miles, the team is getting ready to face the logistical challenge of getting to Malcesine for the 2022 SuMoth Challenge and bring its communicative ambition into reality. The goal is clear! Draw up new ideas on paper for this summer, recruit new members for a departure to the workshop in September 2022 and finally a more durable, more efficient, and ever more inspiring boat for the SuMoth Challenge 2023.
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