Durability of Inflatable Boats

The durability of an inflatable boat is essentially based on two factors, material and bonding.  Below we discuss the facts and the reasons True Kit have chosen to commit to Valmex® and thermo-welded seams.

 

MATERIAL SELECTION

True Kit expects to be measured against the very best in the marine industry.  Through stringent material selection, True Kit have chosen Valmex® Boat PVC by Mehler Texnologies in Germany.  Mehler have been manufacturing the highest quality textiles in Germany for over 60 years and are widely recognised as the leader in this field.

The fabric used in the manufacture of an inflatable boat must be able to withstand extreme physical stresses and also be able to resist abrasion, hot and cold weather and UV light.  That is asking a lot of fabric that you wish to be lightweight, flexible, air and water tight!  Valmex® is manufactured in Germany under the internationally recognised standard of quality:  DIN EN ISO 9001:2008

PVC fabrics contain a plasticiser in order to make them flexible.  Cheap fabrics contain poor quality plasticisers that migrate to the surface resulting in the material becoming sticky, then brittle and finally failing altogether. In contrast, Valmex® contains only the highest quality plasticisers.  There are many cheaper alternatives for manufacturering lower quality inflatable boats rejected by True Kit.

There was one other primary feature that we wanted for our chosen material - we wanted a fabric that was designed to be thermo-welded (see below).

 

BONDING - GLUED OR WELDED SEAMS?

There are fundamentally two methods of bonding the seams of an inflatable boat: Glued or Welded.  Again True Kit wanted to use the best method available in the industry to manufacture boats that would last.  

Research indicates that the first point of failure of an inflatable boat is glued seams.  For many years now we have seen issues with boats becoming weak at the seams as a result of the combination of poor fabric and poor glues.  Plasticisers in the cheap PVCs would migrate into the glue, attacking the strength of the bond and resulting in boats that would literally fall apart at the seams.  Glued seams are particularly susceptible to conditions involving UV, heat and humidity.  There are two solutions to this problem: (1) Use the best German made fabric available (2) Thermo-weld the seams.  

Thermo-welded seams has been a game-changer in the inflatable boat industry.  A thermo-welded seam is a bond between two layers of fabric that fuses the two layers into one under heat.  A thermo-welded seam is four times stronger, and lasts significantly longer than a glued seam.  Another benefit of a thermo-welded seam is superior air-holding ability.  A thermo-welded seam is a permanent bond.  Thermo-welded seams also have high pressure tolerance. This is helpful as it means you don’t need to keep compensating for hot and cold weather conditions. 

One last point is on Hypalon material.  Hypalon exhibits high resistance to chemicals, abrasion and UV.  However, Hypalon seams can only be bonded by glues.  Seams on Hypalon boats are typically the first point of failure.

RECOMMENDATION

Before you buy your next inflatable boat, ask the questions: 

  1. How long do I want my next boat to last?
  2. Is it made of Valmex® 
  3. Are the seams thermo-welded?  

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