Fabric technology has evolved greatly over the last 20 to 30 years, and now includes plastomers, polyurethanes and other fabrics, which can sometimes be stronger, lighter, thinner and less expensive to assemble than the original rubber fabrics.
Zodiac International, a French based inflatable manufacturer, has been on the leading edge of technology for inflatables. Its willingness to research and experiment has led to some innovative new fabrics.
Most fabrics consist of a strong, close-weave mesh of polyester or nylon material which is sandwiched between 2 coatings to provide extreme flexibility, superior air and water tightness, as well as resistance to abrasion and the sun's UV rays.
Zodiac uses a polyurethane fabric called "Strongan" and assembles their inflatable boats by thermo-bonding the fabric.
Heavy Duty Fabrics:
Inflatable boats, particularly RIBs used for rescue or military purposes, are made from a rubber-based fabric, or polyurethane.
A problem that can occur with some fabrics is that the seams can only be joined by gluing, which is done manually. Resulting problems can include poor bonds, de-lamination of seams or fabric can still affect these glued fabrics.
Thicker Hypalon fabrics are considered to be stronger and more durable than polyurethane.
Apart from its superior toughness and durability, Zodiac's Strongan fabric allows the use of Zodiac's computerized machine-welding process known as "thermo-bonding", the welding of fabric using hot air.
Two sealing strips are thermally bonded to the butted fabric seams in a continuous electro-thermal process.
A highly airtight seal is created when the narrow inner strip literally melts into the collar material.
Thermo-bonding creates seams that are typically stronger than the fabric itself and produces a better seam than any hand-gluing method.