Material technology ready to revolutionise the shipping industry

Published on, by Martine Farstad

FISCO develops, produces and distributes products made of composite material for the construction industry. Managing Director, Günther Hirt, adds that this might change in the future due to the use of their incombustible composite material, called fi:resist, in applications other than construction. He believes the material can provide extensive opportunities for a lot of different branches and sectors, including the maritime and shipbuilding sector.

After starting product development projects, the company keeps discovering new applications for the material which they haven’t thought of, and sometimes not even heard of before. Additionally, FISCO is constantly receiving a great deal of interesting inquiries from various sectors and countries. Hence, it is somewhat difficult for Günther to say much about the market potential for the composite material within shipbuilding. However, the company has been building a network within the maritime sector and put a lot of effort in networking. “With a large number of partners along the entire value chain we now have established a very good base for our upcoming activities, and we receive an enormous amount of support from our partners,” he discloses.

“Our core innovation is fi:resist, the world’s first inorganic and incombustible glass fibre reinforced composite material, being manufactured by pultrusion,” says Günther Hirt.

Demonstrator sample for a honeycomb-structured partition wall on ships made of fi:resist composite material

Still searching for additional partners

Currently FISCO is working on transferring all research and development know-how gained on a small-scale pultrusion device to the serial production process. The fi:resist is in the final development stage and will be ready for standard production by the first half of 2019. The company still needs additional partners that find the material beneficial and believe in the technology in order to jointly bring future products and systems into the market.

“Our material technology and its benefits are very much sought after by the construction industry, shipbuilding, railway vehicle manufacturing and the automotive industry.”

Great ideas brought cooperation to the next level

FISCO was founded in 2015 as a joint venture between the companies Fischer (fixing systems) and Sortimo (car fittings and equipment). There are currently four fulltime employees, all predominantly engaged in product management and, research and development. All other tasks are covered by shared services which FISCO receive from both mother companies. They are, however, planning to expand. The plan is to hire 16 new colleagues when moving to a new company site and installing a new production facility in 2019.

In 2011, Sortimo introduced composite elements to their product range due to weight reduction targets in the automotive industry. It soon became clear that the typical advantages of composite material were also highly sought after by the construction industry, which is Fischer’s area of expertise. The two parent companies of FISCO already had a good relationship and were cooperating closely in various fields. Fischer and Sortimo therefore organised workshop sessions with development teams from both companies which generated the first ideas of new composite systems. The owners of both companies decided to bring this to the next level, leading to the foundation of FISCO.

In addition to having a strongly committed team, innovative ideas, a strong focus on research and development projects, and the ability to systematically regard problems from a 360° perspective, FISCO also have the trust of the founding companies, both of whom understand that sometimes the best way to advance is by trial and error. This, Günther Hirt believes, is the reason for the company’s success so far.

Managing Director, Günther Hirt (left) and Product Manager, David Thull (right) receiving the “Experience Composites Innovation Award powered by JEC” for the development of fi:resist

Fire resistant material for shipbuilding

The manufacturing of flame-retardant composites has been a target in the industry for a long time and therefore some providers of such material already exist. Günther points out that producing an incombustible composite material was a much more ambitious target in the composite industry. Some companies have managed to produce such material manufactured as a hand-laminate or by a moulding process. However, FISCO is the first and, so far only company to provide an incombustible composite material industrially manufactured by pultrusion. “Without the use of FISCO fi:rsist, more compromises are made as a higher total weight is accepted in order to fulfil the fire protection requirements even though it is disadvantageous to fuel consumption for example,” Günther elaborates, referring the global trend to consume less energy and protect the environment. Due to this trend, FISCO’s products and systems are made out of glass fibre reinforced polymer (GFRP) and aims to improve the thermal efficiency of, for example, buildings. “With our incombustible composite material, we are currently elaborating on a modular profile system to be used as partition wall on board of all kinds of ships, when fire protection is to be applied,” Günther explains. Additionally, FISCO has started research and development projects for fire doors, panels for floors and ceilings, and for balconies.  

Hard as steel and light as a feather

“When we talk about systems instead of components, we create added value with an improved installation process. Faster and easier are the key words,” Günther states. A good example is the window installation system that they have developed, which consists of GFRP profiles as the main component. By developing and producing systems rather than just components, FISCO reduces the installation time by almost 50% compared to competing products, which reduces installation costs considerably. “This is achieved by a much lower complexity within the system, which also lessens the risk of failure or mistakes. Hence, the quality of the system is improved significantly,” Günther remarks. Further, he explains that the incombustible composite material gives a wider scope in terms of customer benefits. The combination of material properties in one material, which earlier was not possible, makes FISCO’s material “as incombustible as steel and at the same time as light as fibre reinforced composite.” This, therefore, makes the FISCO fi:resist components excellent for ship building. “We fulfil fire protection requirements and have a huge potential to reduce weight and thereby enable an increased payload or a reduction of fuel consumption,” the Managing Director shares.

Legal reqirements

The main barriers to market entry for FISCO, besides from gaining acceptance for the composite material in general, are the complex legal requirements and regulations, such as approvals, certificates, etc. Hovewer, FISCO is determined to overcome the barriers and get their product on the market. “With experienced partners in every particular industry we have an effective turn-key to proceed in the right direction,” Günther concludes.