Hinckley Yachts Takes Solid Edge to Sea
Jason Brett posted on April 04, 2017 |

If people are happiest when they are following their passions, then Matt Barton must be a very happy man. Officially, Barton is the "Manager, Manufacturing Engineering and Project Management" for the Hinckley Company, but at heart he is a boat builder. Barton has found a career that combines his passion for the sea with creative problem solving and hands-on manufacturing to help create some of the finest semi-custom yachts on the water. (Figure 1)

Figure 1. The “Picnic Boat 37” from Hinckley Yachts is typical of the company’s high-quality, semi-custom manufacturing. Producing just 50 boats per year the company works with owners to build the yacht to meet their needs. Matt Barton uses CAD software to address the design challenges of producing custom yachts efficiently.
Figure 1. The “Picnic Boat 37” from Hinckley Yachts is typical of the company’s high-quality, semi-custom manufacturing. Producing just 50 boats per year the company works with owners to build the yacht to meet their needs. Matt Barton uses CAD software to address the design challenges of producing custom yachts efficiently.

Founded in Southwest Harbor, Maine, the Hinckley Company has been building boats for almost 90 years. It draws upon the marine traditions of the Eastern Seaboard to inspire what Barton describes as a "high-end lobster yacht" that marries modern performance and engineering with the grace and sensibility of Down East Maine fishing boats. It currently offers a variety of power and sailing yachts that range in size from 29 to 55 feet in length, and consider every boat to be a "semi-custom" build, taking a standard hull and building it up to meet the individual customer’s needs for performance and luxury.

The custom manufacturing aspect of Hinckley’s work provides Barton with many creative design challenges that he solves with the help of Solid Edge. "It's not 50,000 widgets per year," he explained, "it's 50 boats per year, and they are really complex." The hull and deck design is created by Hinckley's product development department and takes into account the hydrodynamic, structural and aesthetic qualities necessary for an efficient, attractive vessel. Working from standard hull and deck designs allows the company to create reusable molds for building the yachts, which results in a significant cost savings compared to creating a "one-off" vessel. Barton and his colleagues then take that bare shell and equip it with everything it needs—from engines, to cabinetry, to electronic navigation and entertainment systems—to satisfy the customer's vision for their yacht. "We bring the product together and get it built." said Barton, "There are standard arrangements, but what attracts our customers is the ability to make the boat what they want it to be." (Figure 2a-2e)

Figure 2a. Solid Edge allows Matt Barton to easily modify designs to meet customer’s needs. Everything on this Picnic Boat 37 from the engines to the cabinetry can be adjusted.
Figure 2a. Solid Edge allows Matt Barton to easily modify designs to meet customer’s needs. Everything on this Picnic Boat 37 from the engines to the cabinetry can be adjusted.
Figure 2b. Major design changes, such as the engines, feed back into the boat’s weight model to check for performance and balance.
Figure 2b. Major design changes, such as the engines, feed back into the boat’s weight model to check for performance and balance.

"Our primary CAD software is Solid Edge." Barton explained. "The parametric modeling is so important for what we do." For big decisions, like choosing different engines, the changes that Barton and his team make to the design are immediately fed back into the weight model of the boat. This allows the team to check for performance and balance—critical factors in the design of a yacht. "The software makes it so much easier to make an adjustment," he explained. "When you make a change to the model, it keeps the shop floor drawings up to date. If you pull a draft and it is out of date, it tells you."

This is important in an industry where small changes can make a big difference. Hinckley's customers expect a high quality finished product, and Barton and his team are happy to deliver it. "You have to be working with tight tolerances, and the software allows us to do that." Barton added, "We've tried some other CAD packages, but Solid Edge has worked better than the others with our CNC routers for accuracy in producing high quality finished products."

Figure 2c. The hull and deck are the only “fixed” parts of the boat as they are based upon the production molds. The software allows Matt Barton and his team to achieve a high level of finish on interior fittings and furnishings.
Figure 2c. The hull and deck are the only “fixed” parts of the boat as they are based upon the production molds. The software allows Matt Barton and his team to achieve a high level of finish on interior fittings and furnishings.

Barton’s team also makes use of the 3D visualization capabilities of the design software. While the team is aware of the abilities of the KeyShot rendering engine, it rarely needs to take advantage of the full set of photorealistic imaging tools the software provides. “We do basic rendering out of Solid Edge and send it to the owner to get their sign-off,” he added, explaining how the CAD tool enables the company to keep owners involved as an integral part of the design process.

Figure 2d. The hull and deck present complex surfacing challenges. Matt Barton has found that the software is up to the task of representing these compound curves accurately.
Figure 2d. The hull and deck present complex surfacing challenges. Matt Barton has found that the software is up to the task of representing these compound curves accurately.
Figure 2e. Although Matt Barton and his team are aware of the photorealistic rendering abilities of the KeyShot rendering engine, they find that a quick screen shot or basic rendering direct from Solid Edge is more than sufficient to illustrate their designs.
Figure 2e. Although Matt Barton and his team are aware of the photorealistic rendering abilities of the KeyShot rendering engine, they find that a quick screen shot or basic rendering direct from Solid Edge is more than sufficient to illustrate their designs.

One of the benefits that the CAD platform has provided the Hinckley company is that for a software package this powerful, it is relatively easy to learn. “I don’t consider myself a master of Solid Edge…. I learned it on the job,” said Barton, explaining that Hinckley Yachts was using the software when he joined the company seven years ago. Humble disclaimers aside, his obvious proficiency with Solid Edge is perhaps all the more impressive considering that Barton’s background is far from the usual engineering education that many CAD users bring to the job.

Barton took a ‘meandering’ path to his current career, studying economics and working in finance before realizing that his passions lie in a more hands-on field. He enrolled in an intensive one-year program offered by The Landing School, a small Maine school specializing in boat building, and rekindled his romance with the sea. Barton’s work at The Landing School created an opportunity for him to join Hinckley Yachts in 2010, and he hasn’t looked back. (Figure 3)

  Figure 3. Matt Barton, seen here at the helm of a custom Runabout 29, enjoys the customization and attention to detail that Hinckley Yachts puts into every boat. The Runabout 29 is one of the company’s smaller vessels. It is often used as a tender for a larger yacht. Owners appreciate that the attention to detail in their tender equals or exceeds that in their larger yacht.
Figure 3. Matt Barton, seen here at the helm of a custom Runabout 29, enjoys the customization and attention to detail that Hinckley Yachts puts into every boat. The Runabout 29 is one of the company’s smaller vessels. It is often used as a tender for a larger yacht. Owners appreciate that the attention to detail in their tender equals or exceeds that in their larger yacht.

One aspect of the CAD software that has aided Barton’s skill development is the support that Hinckley receives from Solid Edge and its local reseller, LMGi. “Rick Loring and LMGi are really supportive. They’re up here from time to time and often bring up an engineer from Solid Edge to put on workshops,” he said. “We’re a small engineering team—there’s just five of us—and we can usually figure out any challenges ourselves, but I have had to dial the help line before, and they’ve been really good.”

Just as Matt Barton’s abilities with the software have grown over the years, the software itself also continues to be enhanced and refined by the team at Siemens. Barton is particularly enthusiastic about the improvements in surfacing algorithms that have been included in the latest releases of the software.  This has been particularly valuable in modeling the hulls and decks of the yachts. These are two parts of the vessel that are constrained by the molds and determined by Hinckley’s product development group. It is important to Barton that those shapes be modeled perfectly, as all of the work his team does is built upon those fixed features.

In previous years, it was necessary to import and translate the files created by the product development group, but recent advances in Solid Edge’s surface modeling abilities have given Barton the confidence to model the hull and deck directly in Solid Edge. Barton explains that while both methods work, the new surface modeling tools allow the team to create assemblies that are “lighter and cleaner” than using the translated files.

This adeptness has allowed Hinckley to grow and build upon its success. In 2013, Hinckley parent company Scout Partners LLC purchased powerboat manufacturer Hunt Yachts and, in January of last year, the company acquired Morris Yachts, which builds sailing yachts that range from 29 to 80 feet in length.

“Solid Edge has been good for integrating the Hunt and Morris brands,” Barton explains, “but there have been challenges. The integration of Morris has been very straight forward as the engineering CAD platform for Morris has been Solid Edge for some time. The Morris engineering documentation already exists in Solid Edge, so the challenges have been more of an IT integration and getting servers linked.”

Hunt Yachts, however, had traditionally used other CAD packages for developing their engineering documentation, requiring more effort to integrate. “We are working to transition some of this to Solid Edge and developing our new product in Solid Edge. We have been working with LMGI, our Solid Edge reseller, and looking at other data management options.” says Barton, discussing some of the challenges of sharing large files between different engineers and designers at three locations in two different states.

While Matt Barton’s enthusiasm for Solid Edge is clear, what is even more apparent is the joy that following his passion has brought to his career. When he describes how he is able to combine working with owners, creating designs, and getting to do hands-on work to bring those designs to fruition, it is clear that he looks forward to going to work in the morning. Matt Barton serves as an excellent example of not just a CAD designer and boat builder, but as an inspiration for anyone planning a career pivot. He is following his passion and loving it.

Siemens PLM has sponsored this post. They have no editorial input to this post. All opinions are mine. —Jason Brett

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