Prior to the development of fiberglass construction techniques, boats were built of wood, steel, and other materials, by assembling pieces and parts into a structure which was then sheathed with a hull. With fiberglass boat building, however, the major components of the boat – the hull, deck, liner, and large parts like consoles—are molded from fiberglass. The mold is first sprayed with gelcoat, then fiberglass cloth is applied, and then resin is used to saturate or “wet out” the fiberglass. When the resin cures, you have a hull or a boat part.
The first revolution in modern boatbuilding was obviously the shift from mostly wood to fiberglass construction.
There are three types of resins: polyester, vinyl ester and epoxy. Each has a place in the boat-building world. The important factor is for the builder to correctly match the resin to the type of reinforcing material being used so that the strengths are matched. For example, a vinyl ester resin is ideal for S-glass, but, when used with E-glass, the reinforcing material will fail before the resin.
This is the resin most commonly used for boatbuilding today, and most boat owners are familiar with it. It is inexpensive and generally all-purpose. It has low stretch (elongation) properties so it is not used on modern high-performance boats, but it is perfectly adequate for most boats. The most common polyester is an orthophthalic base, but newer isophthalic based polyesters are gaining in popularity. The isophthalics are more resistant to water and chemicals, are more abrasion resistant, and have higher impact and fatigue (flex) performance. Most modern gel coat finishes are made with isophthalic resins.
An alternate to polyester, vinylesters have better stretch characteristics than polyesters, so they more closely match the strengths of the various exotic reinforcements. Vinylester also has good water resistance and fatigue properties, but it is more expensive than polyester resin. One important feature of vinylester is that it has excellent secondary bonding strength, so bulkheads or stringers added to a cured hull will have a better bond than on a polyester.
Resin Infusion in the Context of Boat Manufacturing. Resin infusion, a cornerstone technique in modern composite manufacturing, leverages the power of vacuum technology to facilitate the impregnation of liquid resin into dry fiber laminates.
Resin Infusion is a process by which vacuum draws resin into a dry fiber laminate in a one sided mold. A rigid or flexible film membrane is placed over the top and sealed around the mold periphery. Resin infusion is considered a “Closed Mold Process”.
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