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The coolest stuff is at IBEX

Look for new products and advancements in propulsion, 3-D printing and electronics connectivity at this year’s International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference.
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Fueled by an improving economy, manufacturers are using IBEX now more than ever to introduce new products and the technology behind them, says Anne Dunbar, IBEX show director. “Companies are investing in a lot of R&D,” says Dunbar. “And you will see the result at IBEX. Everybody is sort of back in the game — got their mojo back. The evolution of engines has been unbelievable.” 

Honda, Mercury and Volvo Penta will debut engines at IBEX. Volvo Penta will add to its Gen V fleet when it debuts three sterndrives at IBEX: a 280-hp V-6 4.3L and two new 5.3L V-8s — 300 hp and 350 hp.

“Production units just started appearing at the summer dealer meetings, and IBEX will allow us to talk one on one with customers and prospective customers about the significant performance, durability, environmental and longevity advantages over older and more traditional sterndrive engines,” says Marcia Kull, Volvo Penta of the Americas marine sales vice president. “We will also have our diesel and accessory product lines well represented. In the past few years we’ve seen a surge in marine commercial customers using IBEX as a venue to gain product information and interact with suppliers. Volvo Penta will be ready.”

The first Volvo Penta recreational Gen V gas sterndrive engines — 200- and 240-hp V-6s with a 4.3-liter displacement — were introduced at the Miami International Boat Show and hit the market earlier this year. The Swedish engine maker expects to offer a full family of the next-generation gas engines by 2016.

Companies such as Volvo Penta and Mercury not only see IBEX as an effective venue for chatting up new products, but also for digging into the details of existing products. “You have a lot of OEMs in the same space at the same time, and conveniently we can bring in all of our engineers and product experts to talk about the obvious technology and the more subtle technology in a sophisticated way without having to fly people to every boat plant in the country,” says Marty Bass, Mercury Marine vice president of global product management.

Like other propulsion companies, Mercury began introducing its new 6.2L gasoline engine (in-house-built 300- and 350-hp models) to OEMs at summer dealer meetings, media debuts and other events. IBEX will give the engine maker a chance to hook up with smaller OEMs, says Bass.

“Here we can capture the customers we haven’t gotten to,” he says. “IBEX is very convenient for that. For other products, like the Active Trim, IBEX will be the first time a lot of OEMs will interact with that product because it is not in the production phase yet.” Bass is referring to Mercury’s new automated trim technology, Active Trim Control, which uses a GPS to adjust engine drive trim according to speed.

Honda Marine is introducing a midrange 4-stroke outboard at IBEX but declined to release the product name or other details before the start of the show, says Honda Marine senior manager Mark DiPietro.

Connectivity and 3-D

We saw examples of connectivity of marine electronics and 3-D printing and manufacturing at last year’s show, but this year the number of displays and interaction opportunities in these cutting-edge areas has doubled, Dunbar says.

She urges conferees to check out the 3-D digital workshop’s ongoing demonstrations of the latest in 3-D printing and scanning technologies, applicable to all manufacturers in the marine industry. And new this year is the MakerMobile trailer, a collaboration between Velocity Indiana and San Francisco-based TechShop. On board the modified 32-foot trailer you can talk to a staff of experts and see a variety of tools, including 3-D printers, laser cutters, a vinyl cutter, a CNC machine, and laptop workstations and electronics kits.

“It’s really cool stuff and useful technology,” says Dunbar. “Even more applications for 3-D printing will be emerging, and I think the presence [of 3-D print and manufacturing] will rise next year, as well.”

It’s hard to keep up with all the changes in overall system connectivity, says Dunbar. That’s why this year IBEX brings an expanded display with more products providing real-world solutions.

“Connectivity is a huge area of growth — and for good reason,” says Dunbar. “All of us are becoming more connected. Boats have to stay up with the technology if we want to sell to the younger generations. … They want to be connected just like in their cars and lives. The millennials need to be connected — they need to be posting constantly, photographing what they are doing and sharing what they are doing. That can only be good because boating is so spectacular to photograph and video. We want to cultivate that.”

Dunbar says another emerging market involves “lighted” product. “One way boatbuilders are differentiating their brand nowadays is through lighting designs on their vessels,” she says. “We showed a small, lit-up windshield last year. However, this year we are going to have a whole ‘tree’ full of lighted windshield concepts, showcasing different lighting systems that give boat windshields a very high-tech appearance.”

Conferees also should see the new lighted Bimini top frame system from Ameritex Fabric Systems, Dunbar says. “This system is directed mainly at the pontoon market,” she says. “Again, it’s a great way for boatbuilders to distinguish themselves with different branded colors, and it carries some attachment capabilities beyond the lights.”

Wow me

No doubt IBEX attendees look forward to being wowed with new product — whether it’s illumination, GPS-controlled engine drive trim, 3-D manufacturing or deck covering material.

You better bring your best and leave home the rest, says Warren McCrickard, director of marketing and communications for Infinity Fabrics, a manufacturer of luxury woven vinyl. The Dalton, Ga., company uses IBEX as a place to introduce its new “collection lines,” which have been developed from customer feedback during the past year, says McCrickard. A product called Bocle is one of six luxury woven vinyls the company is introducing, giving boatbuilders such as Premier, Carver, Bennington and Quest a chance to see and touch the results of 12 months of R&D, says McCrickard. “This is the pinnacle trade show on U.S. soil as a supplier of product to the marine industry,” says McCrickard. “It’s the granddaddy. We need to come forward with our newest, boldest, most innovative materials, showing them we have not been resting on our laurels.

This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue.



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