Monday, March 15, 2010

BMW Oracle's skin-friction reduction riblet film: Sorry, confidential

When three weeks ago, 3M sent out a press release regarding the use of its skin-friction reduction riblet film on the hull of BMW Oracle's USA in Valencia during the 33rd America's Cup, we contacted 3M in order to learn more about that cutting-edge technology. Unfortunately, 3M people were tight-lipped, due to the confidentiality agreements signed with the then Challenger of Record. For your information, these were our questions and the, very brief, answers we received:

Question: What material is the riblet film made of?
Answer: Plastic microreplicated materials with riblet structure (See press release).

Question: How is it applied on the hull of the yacht and at what stage of the
hull's construction?
Answer: The backside of the film has a pressure sensitive adhesive layer.

Question: What is the total weight of the film?
Answer: Confidential information.

Question: What is the height and spacing of the riblets?
Answer: Confidential information.

Question: How much reduction in skin friction was achieved?
Answer: Confidential information.

Question: The only time previous to last month the riblets were used (in
the America's Cup) was in 1987 on Stars & Stripes. How different was the
2010-version of the film from the older one?
Answer: The new riblet film is different than the material used on Stars & Stripes Sailboat in 1987 and was designed in cooperation with BMW ORACLE team for the higher speed of the new BMW ORACLE sailboat.

Question: Is there an estimate of the cost?
Answer: There is no cost information that can be provided at this time.

Question: Assuming the ban on its use was lifted do you see this technology
trickling down to smaller racing yachts?
Answer: This and other marine opportunities are being considered.

Question: Finally, there are reports on the internet that in addition to the
film, there was a polymer that was discharged from the hull in order to
further reduce skin friction. Can you give us more information on that?
Answer: This is a question which you would have to direct to BMW Oracle.

We have also forwarded the same questions to Mike Drummond, BMW Oracle's chief designer, and hope we'll get more information.

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