Employees of Stanley Widmer Associates stand behind a scale model of the boat being built with money from a U.S. Navy contract. From left are: Gary Gustafson, lead CAD engineer, Andy Stone, engine mechanic and Stanley Widmer, owner and inventor.
To create the aluminum mold for the boat hull, Stanley Widmer Associates Inc. built an exact replica of the boat in wood.
Staples company will soon test boat contracted for the military Stanley Widmer Associates Inc. is designing a double-hulled boat for the Navy
Stanley Widmer Associates Inc., Staples, has received a contract from the United States government to design and build a boat for the Navy. The aluminum boats currently used to blow up mines many times don't withstand the blast. The boat being designed in Staples will have a flexible double hull and be unsinkable.
The brains behind the project is Stanley Widmer. He conceived the idea of a double hull in the 1960s.
"I used to race boats," he said. "Sometimes the wave action would cause damage." He figured there had to be better hull material. That's when he thought of molding cross-linked polyethelene material and using a kiss-off (material that joined the two hulls together). He knew the material would be safer because it's lighter than water.
"Various chemists and engineers told me it wouldn't work," he said. "But I persisted."
In 1974, Widmer ran a patent search and came up with nothing. He continued to work on perfecting the method of molding the two hulls together and got his patent for the kiss-offs in 2002.
During those 28 years, Widmer owned and operated Widmer Associates, an engineering consulting firm he began in 1972, that helped develop a variety of products. When the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, happened, his business died.
Looking to market his double hull idea, Widmer viewed a military bidding site. There he learned the Coast Guard was looking for a company that could build a better hull. He bid on the job and submitted a proposal. But, he didn't get the job because the Coast Guard couldn't wait the 12 months Widmer needed to get the job done, and he missed the deadline to get his proposal in.
Widmer then went to Homeland Security and bid on a job for a 31 foot boat. Two weeks before he was to begin that project, Homeland Security sent notice it was going with an aluminum hull instead of Widmer's idea.
"I think the government was scared it wouldn't work," he said.
From there, Widmer went to then Sen. Norm Coleman's office and asked for help in getting the money to build a test boat. He received a note back showing interest.
The funding from the U.S. Congress was signed by then President George W. Bush in December 2005.
"I originally asked for $6 million," said Widmer. "But, I only received $1.2 million for my project after a contract was approved and signed in March 2007. And that was after I filled out paperwork for a year."
This past spring, Widmer received another $3 million to continue the project.
The original idea from the Navy was to build a remote controlled boat. It wanted the boat to send out signals to trigger mines placed in shipping lanes and harbors so the larger ships could pass safely.
"Now the Navy is leaning toward a silent-running, manned patrol boat," said Widmer. "It would have a .50 caliber gun installed and seating for two. It will be built to go 50 - 60 miles per hour."
Widmer said it was a hassle to add the gun because he was afraid of damage due to the recoil.
"I'm looking to add gas cylinders that will reduce the recoil," he said.
The boat will have a six-cylinder diesel engine and a transmission with forward and reverse. The prop will be built in the jet drive which sucks in the water and blows it out the back to propel the boat.
To create the hull, poly-ethylene pellets are poured into the aluminum castings and heated. During that process, a cross-link action takes place. After heating, the mold is cooled and the double hull is removed. The entire process takes about four hours.
The temperatures need to be exact or the cross-linking action won't occur. In that case, Widmer said the material would be normal high density polyethylene and unusable.
"The difference is huge," said Widmer. "If done correctly, the hull will flex and not break. It will be able to impact waves, withstand explosions and have some resistence to small arms fire."
"A whole boat pops out of the mold, with both hulls molded together using the kiss-offs," Widmer said. "In theory, if the hull fills with water when in use, it will roll over and dump the water. But, it won't sink."
Widmer said the boat will be ready for trial in 2010.
"When that happens I expect a lot of interest from both consumers and the military," said Widmer. "I think this will be the new age of boating material."