MIAMI – After what was hailed as “the best group of entries in a long time,” ten marine manufacturers were honored Friday for innovative achievement at the 16th annual International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference (IBEX) in Miami.
The Innovation Awards, organized by NMMA and judged by BWI, recognize those products that best meet the following criteria: innovative distinction from other products currently being manufactured; benefit to the marine industry and/or consumer; practicality; cost-effectiveness; and availability to the consumer within 60 days of award receipt. A total of 55 new products were entered in this year’s IBEX awards program, organizers reported in a recent statement.
“In looking at the Innovation Awards products this year, this is the best group of entries we’ve seen in a long time. In fact, this is the first year within the last four that we’ve given out this many awards. There were 15 or 16 products that could easily have won,” said Roger Marshall, Innovation Awards chair, president of BWI and U.S. editor of The Yacht Report.
Additional BWI members rounding out the judging panel this year include: James Barron, technical editor and writer, Trailer Boats magazine; Dean Travis Clarke, executive editor, Boating Life, Fly Fishing in Salt Waters, Marlin and Sport Fishing magazines; host of Sport Fishing Magazine TV on OLN; Jan Mundy, editor, DIY Boat Owner magazine; Bill Pike, senior editor, Power & Motoryacht magazine; Lenny Rudow, senior technical editor, Boating magazine; and Alan Wendt, editor, Marine CEO magazine.
In the Boatbuilding Methods & Materials category, the judges selected the ZPlex from 3Tex Inc., a fiberglass reinforcement with foam core woven directly into the material. ZPlex eliminates the need for builders to lay up fiberglass mat, add in foam core and then lay up a second mat over the core, according to BWI. Instead, using this product, boatbuilders can lay the mat, foam and inner skin in just one application. “ZPlex offers far greater laminating flexibility with less manpower,” said Clarke. “The product’s applications far exceed the marine industry.”
PowerSign from Paneltronics was the winner in the Electrical Systems category, according to the judges. PowerSign is a multiplexed system for intelligent power distribution and management for any vessel using DC loads — meaning you can control and monitor all onboard electrical systems from one location, even remotely. The system comprises four main units: switches; power distribution units; graphical user interfaces; and communications cables. PowerSign’s power distribution units identify which type of fixture is being used, then turn on that particular fixture according to a predetermined delay curve. “It controls everything electrical on your boat, saves installation and engineering time and reduces weight,” said Pike.
In the Hardware Fittings category, the Innovation Award was presented to Fastmount from G&T Industries. The Fastmount is a ball and socket fastener made of acetal copolymer that is self tapping and fits into a pre-drilled hole. It can be used to hold everything from ceilings to cushions to vertical panels. “We’ve seen this style of fastener in other industries, but not in ours,” said Marshall. “With this fastener, you can remove and reinstall panels precisely, again and again.”
Judges selected two winners in the Inboard Engines category: the Rocketek Marine Engine from Rocketek; and the Enclosed Shaft System from Seatorque. “In this category we had two products that were both equally innovative, and we found it extremely difficult to decide between them,” said Marshall. “So we decided to give them both an award.”
The power behind Rocketek’s patented, lightweight engine can easily be boosted by up to 100 hp with the addition of a turbocharger that takes less than five minutes to install. “This engine has gear-driven accessories with no belts to break or wear,” said Barron. “Each accessory can be changed in a matter of minutes, using standard parts. It is also very compact.”
The second award winner in this category is Seatorque’s Enclosed Shaft System. This is the first “bolt-on” inboard propulsion system to debut in the recreational marine industry since introduction of the sterndrive, according to BWI. It is an oil-filled, self-contained shaft and thrust bearing assembly, supplied as a complete unit from propeller to engine. Seatorque’s system “eliminates shaft alignment problems, saves installation time and is truly innovative,” Mundy explained.
The Air Fusion Thermoelectric Environmental Control from Heater Craft took home the award this year in the Mechanical Systems category. “This is the only air conditioning system that does not require seawater circulation to keep it cool,” commented Rudow. Instead, Heater Craft uses a system in which electricity is passed through a thermal heat exchanger that circulates glycol, similar to the antifreeze in cars. The glycol carries heat or cool energy to a core and fan assembly, where energy is then extracted and used to cool the compartment. The Air Fusion control is environmentally safe, has no moving parts and can produce up to 10,000 BTUs of heat and 8,000 BTUs of cold energy.
In the OEM Electronics and Electrical Systems category, judges presented the Innovation Award to Sea-Fire Marine for its Sea-Fire Control Panel. Through its monitoring of fire, heat, smoke and carbon monoxide levels in the engine room, Sea-Fire’s panel offers enhanced safety for most boats. In the presence of danger, the system can shut down a boat’s engines, cut off fuel supply and close vents to stop a fire before it really starts. “It automatically deals with emergencies,” said Pike.
Judges felt there were also two clear winners in the Outboard Engines category. Here, awards were presented to Torqeedo Travel from Torqeedo GmbH and Suzuki, for its DF 300 4-stroke Outboard Motor. “The Torqeedo electric outboard is unique in that it has a six-pound lithium manganese battery that can be removed from the motor by simply lifting it off the unit,” said Marshall. “Once it is removed, Torqeedo’s product can be recharged nightly for use the following day.” It is completely collapsible, easily assembled, weighs only 25 pounds and can be transported in a kit bag.
The Suzuki DF 300 hp outboard is the largest displacement four-stroke engine ever built. The engine features a new lower unit capable of reducing drag by up to 18 percent and new electronic throttle and shift systems. “This is the most powerful four-stroke built to date, yet it’s lighter and smaller than its competitor’s 250 hp motors,” said Clarke.
Finally, this year’s IBEX Environmental Award was presented to Indmar Products Inc. for its patent-pending EXT/CAT, the industry’s first and only catalytic converter exhaust system for gasoline marine engines. Indmar’s converter reduces CO gases by up to 98 percent, reduces nitrous oxide hydrocarbon emissions and meets all federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emission requirements for 2008. It is also the only marine exhaust to achieve a Four-Star, Super-Ultra-Low Emission rating by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the judges stated.
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