A variety of opinions can be heard regarding the suitability of inflatable boat fabrics. This is usually a demonstration of the salesman’s bias or often simply a reflection of what boats he has in stock. The facts are that significant improvements have been made over recent years and high performing fabrics of all types can be obtained by reputable manufacturers. The characteristics of the various fabric options allow for wider range of product and performance choices for the customer.
PVC inflatable boat fabric offers light weight and economical solutions to leisure boat manufacturing. Importantly PVC fabric can be joined by welding while hypalon fabric must be glued. As a result PVC boat production can be mechanized to a greater degree thereby providing cost effective manufacturing. However due to their lack of resistance to prolonged exposure to UV rays and chemicals they are not typically used in larger RIBs which tend to be left exposed for longer periods in direct sunlight.
Hypalon inflatable boat fabric has been traditionally used in high quality boats because of its resistance to weather and chemicals and ease of repair. Among all fabrics they are the least subject to wicking (air loss through the weave). However, their weaker abrasion resistance makes them 2nd choice for RIB work boats and white water rafts. Hypalon fabrics can only be glued after pre-sanding and this can add significantly to the cost of manufacturing RIB collars. There are various grades and qualities of Hypalon fabrics. Typically the highest quality Hypalon fabrics originate from Europe and Japan. (Hypalon is a registered DUPONT trademark).
Elvaloy features a high resistance to abrasion, excellent color stability and good general properties. As a result Elvaloy® fabric is poised to capture a growing share of the inflatable boat market. As the fabric can be both welded and glued it offers the benefit of easier tube manufacture similar to PVC with a UV stability similar to Hypalon. However the primary cost of the fabric is currently higher than the alternatives although this may become more competitive with time.
Utilising closed-cell, non-absorbant foam which is coated with an extremely tough, yet flexible elastomeric polyurethane West Coated Foam collars provide buoyancy characteristics similar to inflated collars without the potential for puncture and/or deflation. The collars are UV stable and can incorporate all accessories typically found on inflated tubes such as handles, rubbing strakes, D-rings, etc. Their exceptional durability and ability to incorporate further reinforcement makes the West Coated Foam particularly useful for commercial work boats and remote recreational user.