Perth, Australia-based composites manufacturer Quickstep Holdings Ltd. will buy Flatout Boats Pty. Ltd., a Perth-based company that manufactures a folding boat from composite materials.
The Flatout boat, previously made from fiberglass, will be the first commercial application of Quickstep's thermoplastic panels, which are made of epoxy resin, polyester and vinyl ester.
Flatout Boats' owner and boat designer, Gavin Ager, said the fiberglass version of the boat weighs about 106 pounds, can be assembled by one person in three minutes and can be folded into a 2-foot-wide, 4-inch-thick flat pack.
Ager said he had been approached several times to sell the company by ``people who just wanted to make a quick buck,'' but Quickstep was the only company that had the technology to manufacture the panels.
``We are only a small company and could not afford to launch the product globally. While it was not the best financial offer for us, Quickstep has the technology and the connections to [market overseas],'' Ager said.
Nick Noble, Quickstep managing director, said the thermoplastic panel process, which allows production of large, single panels suitable for aerospace applications, will increase productivity, cut production costs and produce a ``stronger, tougher'' boat.
Commercial outlook filled with optimism
``Our initial target is to have a fully fledged, West Australian-based boat-building business in commercial operation during the second half of 2006 at a new facility in Perth,'' he said.
He said Quickstep plans to form international partnerships to manufacture Flatout Boats overseas.
``Because of its flexibility, light weight and strength, we see opportunities for this product as a replacement for small trailer boats and dinghies in the recreational boat market, and for commercial and scientific uses or in special emergencies during cyclones and floods.''
Deryck Graham, Quickstep nonexecutive director, said Quickstep will buy Flatout Boats, including all its patents and designs, for A$250,000 (US$176,100) in installments over 18 months.
The initial payment of A$75,000 (US$52,830) will be made on completion of due diligence, expected to be finalized in April, and the remainder will be paid upon completion of milestones up to the 450th boat produced using the Quickstep process.
Graham said Sydney-based design engineers will be contracted to work with the Quickstep team to improve Ager's design for suitability to the new materials.
Ager will be contracted as a consultant for three months.
Firm secures patent for rivet-free panels
Quickstep Holdings Ltd. also has gained a foothold in the aerospace industry by securing an Australian patent on its process for producing rivet-free panels.
Noble said the patent covers co-curing, joining and melding processes for the composite materials, mostly epoxy resin, polyester and vinyl ester.
``The ability to join or meld composite components, in a process akin to welding without the requirement for rivets or bolts, is one of the most revolutionary aspects of the Quickstep process, with potentially far-reaching significance for the aerospace industry,'' he said.
Quickstep is finalizing a deal to get one of its manufacturing machines to the United States, he said.
``We have a joint venture business model, so if [overseas] manufacturers want to become involved, that is something we are willing to do.''
Noble said cost, weight and improved performance are key drivers of interest in the Quickstep process.
Quickstep listed on the Australian Stock Exchange last year after raising A$6 million (US$4.58 million) through an initial public offering. Quickstep has plants in Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom.