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Polyester is not a structural resin

Polyester is ok for car repair and non structural uses (tanks, bins, bathtubs) Lowest cost, highest production rates (very
fast cure rates) Won't work on polystyrene foam (it softens the foam) Heavy, and hard to obtain proper fiber resin ratios
due to wet out properties. Good secondary bonds are hard to obtain. Poor bond to Kevlar. Bondo and Featherfill are

Vinylester is similar to polyester but has better structural properties than polyester

Better bond to Kevlar and Carbon fibers than polyester. Gel time can be extended to 10 hours. Mid-cost, still less than

Epoxy is the material of choice for structure

Cure cycles pace production work. Health hazards are present. Costly materials. Oven cure varieties are available to
allow large lay-ups. Many varieties to match specific structural requirements.

General considerations for all resin systems

Health hazards. Workability. Cost. Chemical resistance (fuel proof). Compatibility with fibers and core materials.
Required service temperature and moisture environment. Fabricator must understand the materials they are working
with. Clean up issues and hazard waste.

Resin Matrices


Cures by polymerization (long parallel molecular chains). Lowest cost resin. Unsuitable for structural lay-ups, low
properties. Limited to low temperature applications. Insensitive to mix ratio (amount of catalyst affects cure rate not
material strength) High shrinkage (unstable parts/tools, cloth print through) Polyester part will not bond to a epoxy
part. Contains styrene; therefore cannot apply over polystyrene foam.


Improved version of polyester resin, better properties, higher cost. Less health risk than epoxy. properties are between
polyester and epoxy. Extended pot life to allow larger lay-ups


Most common structural resin, many different varieties available. Cures by cross linking (three dimensional process).
Very sensitive to proper mix ratio of resin to hardener. In the small batches that are used in modeling a Triple beam
gram scale is needed. Highest cost. Room temperature or oven cure variants available. Absorbs moisture
(hydroscopic). Oven cure variants have higher Tg and Heat Distortion Temperatures. Will bond to a polyester part.
Multiple health issues. Lowest shrinkage (highest stability). Excellent adhesive properties (good secondary bonds).
Face coats available for tooling surface finishing. Laminating and tooling resins available.

Epoxy Resin Specifications

Mix Ratio: by weight (most accurate) or by volume. Typical ranges 100:44 to as low as 100:5 by weight. When mixing
small quantities for model airplanes a triple beam gram scale that measures in 1/10 of a gram is required.
Mixed viscosity, low viscosities required for laminating resins to ensure proper wet out, high viscosity for tools. A good
viscosity for a hand lay-up is around 500 to 800 centipoise.
Pot Life, 100 gram mass; larger masses cure faster, pot life characteristics limit the maximum laminate thickness
possible per cure cycle. Oven cure resins have extended pot lives, allowing larger lay-ups to be accomplished. Most
resins for a propeller or similar size part would require only 20 to 25 grams of resin. Mixing more than you need
decreases the pot life and wastes resin.
Pot Life for thin film: More representative of time available to wet out laminate and bag if required. 100 gram mass pot
life is representative of a small batch mix according to the resin manufactures. Actual pot lives are even less then
specified when thixotropics are used. Thixotropics include micro balloons, flox, Cab-O-Sil and chopped carbon fibers.
Gel Time: Similar to pot life; resin is too thick to wet out fibers once gelled.
Cured Hardness, Shore D: Cured resin can be hardness tested to assure full cure. When making a part it is important
to save the left over epoxy in order to test the cure.
Glass Transition Temperature (Tg): Maximum temperature at which resin properties diminish appreciably, sometimes
referred to the resins "red line" temperature. When a cured polymer is heated, vast changes in thermal and mechanical
properties occur. These changes are particularly large near the glass transition temperature, Tg. Below the Tg, the
polymer is hard and glassy, and above the Tg it has a rubbery state. At this temperature, tensile strength, hardness,
electrical properties and chemical resistance depreciate rapidly, while tensile elongation and flexibility increase
markedly. Tg usually occurs over a range of temperature, but for simplicity a single temperature is selected as Tg.
Heat Deflection Temperature (HDT): Temperature at which the resin begins to soften but still has good structural
properties. The deflection temperature is commonly used as approximation of Tg. The method for measuring DT has
been standardized by ASTM. The DT is determined on a casting which has been permanently stressed at (264 psi) by
flexural loading and then heated at a constant rate until the casting deforms a specified amount. The DT method usually
requires a larger sample than Tg methods.
DT's and Tg's provide a measure of crosslink density of the polymer. Those polymers with higher DT's have higher
crosslink densities, better performance at elevated temperatures and generally better solvent and chemical resistance.
The choice of curing agent and the cure cycle (degree of cure of the polymer) are the largest factors affecting DT. You
would want a higher Tg resin on a tuned pipe than on a wheel pant.
Notch Sensitivity (Izod Impact): A measure of the resin's brittleness. A water ski would require a resin that is a little
more flexible than a model airplane propeller blade. A plasticizer can be added to make the resin tougher and less
prone to fracture.
Post Cure: The manufacture's recommended elevated temperature cure cycle to be used to attain the best material
properties. Post cures either follow a room temperature cure or an intermediate temperature oven cure for oven cure
materials. Free standing post cures are typically successful if a gradual ramp up in temperature is used. High-temp
assembly fixtures are required if a free-standing post cure cannot be accomplished.
Peak exotherm, Fahrenheit: An indication of a resin's likelihood to exotherm uncontrollably. The chance of exotherm
can be reduced by limiting mix batches to small quantities, proper disposal of leftover resin, and knowing your resins
properties (testing). Exotherm is a term used to describe the internal heat generated by the cross linking of the resin to
the hardener. On some resin hardener combinations a 50 gram mass is great enough to melt a plastic cup and
become hot enough to burn your skin. Larger quantities create a fire hazard.
Resin "Physicals" Include: Density, Hardness, Viscosity, Elongation, CTE or coefficient of thermal expansion, Tg, HDT,
Pot life, Mix Ratio, Color, Peak Exotherm, Shrinkage, Izod Impact and others.


Carbon Fibers

Carbon fibers, Though known since Thomas Edison's development of the incandescent light in the 1870s, were not
made in large quantities until the late 1960s. At that time it was found that carbonizing several fibrous materials
resulted in a continuous fiber with relatively low density and high Young's modulus of elasticity. Modulus of elasticity is a
parameter indicating a material's stiffness. Young must have been the one who came up with a mathematical way to
measure this. High modulus materials are stiffer than low modulus materials.
Fiber Sizing: Sizing are added to fiberglass and carbon fiber to aid in processing and to allow the resin a better bond to
the fiber. Silane coupling agents are a used as adhesion promoters. While the sizing helps in the processing of fibers
they can hinder wet out of the fabric or tow. Carbon fiber sizing must be applied to the fiber tow (which may consist of
12,000 filaments of more) to prevent the individual filaments from contact damage between themselves or with eyelets
or guides during weaving or prepreging. When using tow to manufacture propellers and bellcranks it was necessary to
massage the tow in order to loosen the sizing for better wet out. The thing to remember when ordering carbon fiber and
fiber glass is that the sizing is compatible with the type of resin you are using. Some sizings in the fiber glass industry
are for polyester only but most sizings are for both epoxy and polyester resins. One can obtain a discount on fiberglass
with expired sizing when ordering from the mills in large quantities.
If you have ever handled carbon tow in the raw state without sizing it is very soft. Fabricators rely on its tensile strength
for the parts rigidity. It is of great importance to keep the fibers in line with the loads being applied to it for the best
strength properties. Even the crimp in a carbon tow that allows the tow to be woven into a cloth weakens the material.
This is why unidirectional carbon lay-ups tend to be the strongest. While talking to Hiroshi Kiyomoto who fabricated
Kaz Minato's carbon wing of his latest Blue Max at last years Nationals he stated that he used unidirectional carbon in
the wing. One layer was from root to tip and the other was from the trailing edge to the leading edge. By doing this he
could obtain a stronger lighter wing than would have been possible with a carbon cloth. Carbon cloth holds excess
resin in between the tows if not compacted with a vacuum bag. Carbon cloth greatly speeds up the production process
While carbon fiber is considered a light weight material in the full size world, it still remains a great challenge to save
weight on a model airplane with this material. If you are trying to replace 4 to 6 pound per cubic foot balsa with carbon
fiber the results are usually disappointing. The tools to achieve the proper compaction are out of the hobbyist's range.
These tools are autoclaves and composite ovens. It's still hard to beat a good piece of 4 1/2 pound balsa for formers,
ribs and the like. Carbon fiber excels on the materials normally constructed from hardwoods, metal, plastic etc. or high
stress areas such as spars and the like.
One of the biggest obstacles to overcome when designing a part from composite materials is the natural tendency to
copy a part exactly as if it were made from its previous material. The part should be redesigned to take advantage of
the formability and strengths of the composite material. A composite part should not be limited to the shape of a metal
or plastic part.
There are three types of carbon fiber, Rayon, Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) and Pitch.
Rayon precursors, which are derived from cellulosic materials, were one of the earliest precursors used to make carbon
fibers. The processing disadvantage was a high weight loss, or low conversion yield to carbon fiber. Typically only
25% of the initial fiber mass remains after carbonization, which means that carbon fiber made from these materials is
comparatively more expensive than carbon fibers made from other materials.
Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) precursors are the basis for the majority of carbon fibers commercially available today. They
provide a carbon fiber conversion yield that is 50 to 55%. These precursors can be thermally rearranged before thermal
decomposition, which allows them to be oxidized and stabilized before the carbon fiber conversion process, while
maintaining the same filamentary configuration. The chemical composition of PAN precursors defines the thermal
characteristics that the material displays throughout the oxidation/stabilization portion of the conversion process. These
thermal characteristics influence the processing sequences that are used to convert PAN precursors to carbon fiber.
Carbon fiber based on a PAN precursor generally has a higher tensile strength than a fiber based on any other
precursor. This is due to a lack of surface defects, which act as stress concentrators and, hence, reduce tensile
strength. Carbon propellers and bellcranks that are made by Winship Models utilize PAN based carbon fiber.
Pitch precursors based on petroleum asphalt, coal tar, and polyvinyl chloride can also be used to produce carbon fiber.
Pitches are relatively low in cost and high in carbon yield. Their most significant drawback is nonuniformity from batch
to batch.

Glass Fibers

There are literally thousands of fiber glass fabrics and tows available to the fabricator. For modeling use the varieties of
fabrics under 2 ounces per square yard are the most common.
E- Glass is the most common (and least expensive) grade of glass fiber.
S -Glass is a special grade of glass that is much stiffer than E-glass and somewhat stronger.
The use of fiber glass on a stunt ship is usually limited to the center section of a foam wing or around the nose section,
either on the outside or for reinforcement around the nose formers. If using fiber glass to strengthen the center section
of a foam wing keep the glass fibers running at a 45 degree angle to the center wing joint. This will allow both the warp
and the fill fibers of the cloth to span the wing joint giving double the strength with no weight penalty. The warp
direction is the direction of the long fibers as the cloth is pulled off of the roll. The fill fibers are the fibers that run side to
side as the cloth is pulled off of the roll.
Almost all glass cloth has sizing applied to it to aid in resin wet out and adhesion. Some sizings are for polyester resins
and some are for epoxy resins. If the glass cloth or tow has the wrong sizing for the type of resin used, then the bond
will be weak between the resin and cloth or tow. While this might not be of great concern on a pair of wheel pants it
might prove to a problem if a speed prop was constructed without the proper sizing applied to the tow. Usually a fiber
glass that is not properly wet out will have silver of white streaks or spots in the laminate.