Inflatable innovation : developing an inflatable sea kayak : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Technology in Manufacturing and Industrial Technology at Massey University
There are many kayaks available and many of these are sea kayaks or inflatable kayaks. During an investigation by this researcher (referred to throughout this document in the first person), of the current sea kayaking market, a gap was identified for a sea kayak that was lightweight, portable and capable of touring and expeditions. An inflatable kayak often offers the initial two features of being lightweight and portable. The additional features of being capable of touring and expeditions, however, were the area of concentration. The problem was approached through a combination of expertise, facilities and finance provided by an inflatable boat manufacturer, Incept Marine Ltd (Incept), an experienced sea kayaker (Audrey Sutherland), and a fellow (this researcher), supported by a Graduate in Industry Foundation (GRIF) scholarship, payable over 12 months. The objectives of the project were to produce an inflatable sea kayak capable of carrying the equipment required for expeditions, be reliable, and have features that were found in most hardshell sea kayaks. Features for development included room for storage, a deck and a rudder to ease steering. In addition the inflatable sea kayak needed to perform better than most inflatables that were on the market, as they were often slow due to a lack in strength and rigidity. Stability was important and just as a whitewater kayak should be able to negotiate its way through rapids on a river, a sea kayak should be able to guide itself over waves and cover the distances it was expected to travel, while keeping the paddler safe. The detail required in the pattern and processes could only be known by those with experience in the industry who had learnt to foresee potential problems. There was little room for error, right from the pattern design to the small but often essential processes that made Incept boats recognised around the world for their quality. It was the small and sometimes obvious areas that caused problems; for example, having to trust other manufacturers' specifications, which could lead to glues becoming susceptible to humidity and heat after a prolonged time, or the need for pressure release valves in order to fix I-beams. The final prototype was a synergy of ideas and experience brought together to form an inflatable kayak that had characteristics to fit a consumer market wanting a kayak for paddling in exposed and open water environments. The direction and input from an experienced sea kayaker moved the project to an area that could not have been reached without considerably more market research. Working in a small innovative business created its own set of difficulties to be overcome in such a project. However, it also allowed involvement from everyone in the company to input into the outcome of the project. The project ended successfully with two working prototypes known as the Incept inflatable sea kayak K40 (K40).