What is the best material?
The Rhib industry is literally split in two.
Who works out inflatable done in PVC and who does them in Hypalon©.
Let’s make clear what are pro and cons of both materials once and for all.
What is PVC
PVC stands for Poly Vynil Chloride, and it is a plastic compound synthetized 150 years ago in Germany.
Originally it was a rigid material which has been modified in the early 20s in order to commercialised by Goodrich company.
Today around 50% of worldwide production is shared between China and Taiwan.
The material used modern inflatable devices is made of 3 layers: pvc, nylon structure, pvc.
Usually one side is smooth (the outern one), another shiny (which is the inner one, where the glue acts), it is mild resistant to UV and chemicals.
In order to resist to high temp (>90°) an inner net is present for tubes on bigger vessels.
There are two different techniques to seal PVC tubes: PVC GLUE and THERMO WELDING TECHNIQUE
GLUE is a very effective and cheap way to close PVC seams, but it is weaker.
PVC glue is very sensitive to heat, with high environmental temps or straight sun the glue softens and let air leaks occur.
Another weak point is the storage. Usually tenders and small rhibs are kept totally deinflated. Unfortunately this makes things worst, since glue dries in a specific position and once is inflated, it cracks.
Chinese manufacturers are usually producing Rhibs and dinghies with glued seams, you can recognize them by the typical “seam-bump”, an inner bend which helps holding air (see below picture).
ATTENTION: many SUPs and INFLATABLE BOARDS have glued seams and need a specific attention, please read here how NOT to store your SUP.
THERMO WELDING TECHNIQUE is the safest seam and is possible on PVC manufacturing only. Zodiac and Bombard are two of the major brands which are using this technique (the hull is anyway glued in the standard way).
There is a specific category using thermo welding and are devices which need HIGH PRESSURE.
Thermo weldic can hold up to 15PSI against the 2 of the glue.
These devices are SUPs, windsurf boards, and racing catamarans (such as Topcats).
- cheap fabric
- high number of producers
- cheaper fixings
- low glue life expectation
- high attention needed
- thermo welding in certain time is impossible to fix with same fabric performance
For the above reasons, glued tubes are not installed above 20ft vessels.
What is HYPALON©
Hypalon© is the nickname for a more complicated chemical.
It is a base of PE with synthetic rubber, it’s very resistant to chemicals, extreme temperatures and UV.
Originally developed by DuPont, today the leading hypalon producer is ORCA by Pennel et Flipò, which added two layers of neoprene allowing an impressive color chart and fabric textures.
Hypalon is formed by 5 layers: treated rubber coat, neoprene, nylon fabric, neoprene, rubber.
The only way to close Hypalon© tubes is HYPALON© GLUE.
It can be used even normal neoprene glue, but it is not designed for high resistance use.
Today, as said, the most important supplier in terms of quality and design is ORCA by Pennel et Flipò Belgium, which is the only one producing military standard but there are Chinese manufacturers which are making lower but good standard products.
BIG D® is a certified ORCA Hypalon© repairer.
- original hypalon if treated good stands forever, you can still find 30/40years old Rhib
- high variety of color/textures
- can be used on big Rhibs (even over 40 feet)
- material much more expensive than PVC
- takes longer to fix
- on final product, price is much more expensive related to PVC
HOW TO RECOGNISE IF A RHIB IS PVC OR HYPALON©?
If you are buying a Rhib (or want to repair it with a patch) you need to know what is the material you are working on and get patch and glue accordingly, otherwise won’t work in the proper way.
- at touch feels like PLASTIC
- it looks with a DIAMOND TEXTURE
- it DOES NOT leave DUST when grinded
- the material has SAME COLOR inside and outside
- at touch feels like RUBBER
- it looks with a DOTS TEXTURE, barely visible
- it MAKES DUST when grinded
- the material inside is BLACK rubber