The inspiration to adapt an existing technology to another industry can be a key driver for innovation, and the Blackman & White VersaTech is now helping Dolphin Sails get the best from its own production revolution – using ‘form finding’ engineering software to create world-leading tensile awnings.

The ‘form finding’ software they use allows for the manufacture of incredibly stable awning shapes and designs, and its pedigree includes being used in the creation of London’s O2 Arena.

Dolphin Sails, whose strapline is ‘The difference is the finish’, has been making tensile awnings for around three years now, and recently invested in the new Blackman & White cutter with a laser module to support the quality and speed of output.

The business has come a long way since Brian Vincent and his wife Frances started up in their back garden, making small dinghy sails. Their son Matthew Vincent and his sister used to help out by cutting out the small Dolphin Sail labels, getting a penny for each ‘good’ one. Matthew – now managing director and chief designer – has been with the company, more officially, for 40 years.

Over that time the business has grown organically and 15 years ago it purchased Gowan Ocean on West Merseyside and now uses those premises as a base to manufacture sails. The covers and awnings, both marine and land based, are manufactured in Harwich, and there’s also an office in Hamble, Southampton.

Dolphin is currently expanding its base even further, looking to move to larger premises in Harwich and finalising the opening of an out-post in Palma, Majorca, for service and manufacturing.

It started using the ‘form finding’ computer software around three years ago when the team realised the incredible potential for tensile awnings. Last year they produced a tensile awning for the superyacht Elfje, built by world-renowned Royal Huisman, and this year they are producing tensile awnings for a 135m ferry that runs between Gibraltar and Morocco.

The software they use is a unique solution in the industry, and their new laser cutter now enables them to produce sealed panels with no fraying. This speeds up the manufacturing process in terms of both cutting speed and edge sealing.

“We’ve already got two B&W cutters but this is the first with the laser option. We chose to purchase from B&W as they’d always provided an excellent service and are based just down the road,” said Matthew.

“The VersaTech was installed mid-July and while it’s a bit more complicated, the training was good and it comes with useful software that helps you maximise your efficiency with fabric usage.

“Because the VersaTech is 3.2m wide we can also now cut fabric and PVC outside of our traditional scope of work, supporting our expansion into more land based awnings.”

Alex White, Managing Director at Blackman & White added: “While our history is rooted in the marine industry and it remains one of our key markets, the needs of sign and display manufacturers printing textiles, are essentially the same.

“Whichever industry or application you’re working in, when it comes to working with fabrics, cut quality and efficiency are key to profitability.

“The VersaTech offers high-precision, top quality output with a fast return on investment, and in textile printing the laser option really comes into its own.”

Blackman & White