CEO of Dutch builder IMPACD Boats, Marieke de Boer, explains her company’s rapid progress from concept to production with a range of 3D printed motor launches designed for the circular economy
What attracted you to working in the marine industry?
I lived alongside the water when I was growing up and did a lot of boating. However, I had no experience in the marine industry when I started IMPACD Boats in 2020 with my partner, Jörgen.
When you work in a factory, you have a lot of scrap material that you throw away, leading to financial and environmental costs. I thought there was an opportunity to improve that and moved into the marine sector to make that difference. I could see the opportunity to take a traditional industry building boats that cannot be recycled and introduce a more appropriate and future-proof process for the beautiful environment we all enjoy.
Before IMPACD my career centred on process optimisation and using lean Six Sigma in manufacturing. I also specialised in culture and behaviour change. Jörgen has a technical background. My dad is from the marine industry and joined the business two years ago. Together we make a nice combination.
Tell us about your business
IMPACD builds electrically propelled sloepen using 3D print technology, currently in lengths between 3m-7m; we can print hulls up to 12m, which will happen in the future. We collaborate with two partners on the printing technology and can produce a 3m boat hull in 40 hours.
The print process uses recycled materials, such as PET (polyethene terephthalate) bottles and kitchen waste plastic. Importantly these plastics can be reused again at the end of life and become an entirely new boat – circularity is essential.
To be a leading company with sustainable 3D-printed boats on the market, we had to quickly build up knowledge and get to the stage where people could see and experience the product. The feedback was positive when we launched the first boat six months after starting the business, and people thought the concept was cool.
Our boats have a distinct ribbed surface from the printing, and many people like this visible indicator that our boats are sustainable. It’s one of our unique selling points. We also produce many units for boat rental companies, and our sustainable approach helps them position their company to be environmentally responsible.
In what other ways is IMPACD approaching reduction of its environmental impact?
We’ve looked at the full impact of the boat, from materials and production processes, to what happens at end-of-life. We’ve gone further by looking at more minor details, such as the work clothes we wear and the materials used for marketing. I even purchased a laptop with a case made from recycled ocean plastics. Sustainability is really in our DNA.
There’s a lot of greenwashing, and we want to avoid that. We have proven our boats are sustainable by working with TU Delft University in the Netherlands. A team of 30 people there have assessed our boats as 74% more sustainable than equivalent traditionally constructed boats on the marketplace today.
We also want people to see what we do and are open to their input and good ideas. Our philosophy is to improve together.
What interesting trends are you seeing in the industry?
I see where the industry is gaining ground in sustainability through many smaller innovations and some larger ones, like foiling. There is push and demand for electric propulsion, but I think that’s not sustainable enough.
We must do much more to ensure the industry has a real future that helps the world and our kids. We will need to start using lifecycle assessments so that we all know what our environmental footprint is. The marine industry will not be the first to move on this – it will happen first within sectors like automotive, but eventually, this will become a standard requirement.
What is the importance of METSTRADE to your business?
It’s one of the best opportunities to meet different suppliers and connections from many countries, all in one place. We attend every year to meet existing contacts and to meet new people who have things of interest for our concept and future.
Which METSTRADE areas and activities do you most look forward to?
It’s good that METSTRADE and IBI run theBoat Builder Awards for Business Achievement because it encourages us all to take steps forward. Many major boat builders participate each year and IMPACD was shortlisted in 2022. I’d also like to see a more significant number of smaller companies entering.
The feature areas and sustainability presentations within METSTRADE are something I focus on during my visit. I also like the Women in the Marine Industry event. Sometimes, people assume I work in marketing for my business and ask to speak to the boss because it remains traditional thinking that you expect the CEO to be a man. In other sectors, that’s not so much the case now – promoting women in boating is welcome.