You are on page 1of 8

Hand Lay-up Hand lay-up is a simple method for composite production.

A mold must be used for hand lay-up parts unless the composite is to be joined directly to another structure. The mold can be as simple as a flat sheet or have infinite curves and edges. For some shapes, molds must be joined in sections so they can be taken apart for part removal after curing. Before lay-up, the mold is prepared with a release agent to insure that the part will not adhere to the mold. Reinforcement fibers can be cut and laid in the mold. It is up to the designer to organize the type, amount and direction of the fibers being used. Resin must then be catalyzed and added to the fibers. A brush, roller or squeegee can be used to impregnate the fibers with the resin. The lay-up technician is responsible for controlling the amount of resin and the quality of saturation (Larry, 2004).

Wet Lay-up/ Hand Lay-up

Typical Wet Lau-Up Operation

Resins: Epoxy, polyester, vinyl ester, phenolic and any other resin. Fibers: Glass, Carbon, Aramid and any other reinforcement, although heavy aramid fabrics can be difficult to wet-out by hand. Cores: Any core materials can be used provided that should be compatible with resin system, i.e.polystyrene core cannot be used with polyester or vinylester resin system. Main Advantages:     Low capital Investment. Simple principles to fabricate the part. Low cost tooling, if room-temperature cure resins are used. Wide choice of suppliers and material types.

Limitation:  Resin mixing, laminate resin contents, and laminate quality are very dependent on the skills of laminators. Low resin content laminates cannot usually be achieved without the incorporation of excessive quantities of voids.  Health and safety considerations of resins. The lower is molecular weight of hand layup resins generally means that they have the potential to be more harmful than higher molecular weight products. The lower viscosity of the resins also means that they have an increased tendency to penetrate clothing etc.   Limiting airborne styrene concentrations to legislated levels from polyesters and vinyl esters is becoming increasingly hard without expensive extraction systems. Resins need to be low in viscosity to be workable by hand. This generally compromises their mechanical/thermal properties due to the need for high diluents/styrene levels ( Gurit, 2009).

Lay-up processes are ideally suited for the manufacture of low-volume medium-to-large parts. These processes are capable of making very large parts with minimal tooling costs, such as custom-built yacht hulls. However, manual lay-up processes, similar to the ones covered in Chapter 5 on Collation, are labor intensive and part quality is very dependent on worker skill.

Fig. 8. Prepreg Lay-Up Process

Fig. 10. Traditional Lay-Up and Autoclave Cure

Fig. 12. Wet Lay-Up Process

Wet lay-up. In the wet lay-up process, shown schematically in Fig. 1, a
dry reinforcement, usually a woven glass roving or cloth, is manually placed on the mold. A low-viscosity liquid resin is then applied to the reinforcement by pouring, brushing or spraying. Squeegees or rollers are used to densify the lay-up, thoroughly wetting the reinforcement with the resin and removing excess resin and entrapped air. The laminate is built up layer-by-layer until the required thickness is obtained. E-glass is the most prevalent material but S-2 glass, carbon and aramid can be used where the improved properties justifies their higher costs. Heavy glass woven rovings (500 g m -2) can be used to build up thickness quickly and reduce labor costs, yielding a part with approximately a 40% glass content. Although heavy woven rovings reduce lay-up times, the heavy weaves are more difficult to impregnate than the lighter weight glass clothes. Where the high strength of woven roving or glass cloth is not required, glass mats can be used to save costs. Glass mats can be either continuous strand mats, in which continuous strands of glass are swirled onto a moving carrier and then tacked with a binder, or chopped strand mats, in which chopped fibers (--1-2 inches) are sprayed onto a moving carrier and again heat tacked with a liquid, spray or powder binder. Frequently, to save weight

Fig. 1. Typical Wet Lau-Up Operation

and labor costs, core materials such as honeycomb, balsa, or foams are added to produce a sandwich construction, which in the case of a boat hull can also help provide flotation. In general, foam cores should be sealed prior to lay up to reduce excessive resin absorption. Since impregnation is done by hand, voids, resin-rich and resin-starved areas can be a problem. An improvement in the impregnation consistency can be obtained by preimpregnating the reinforcement before it is placed on the tool. This can be accomplished by placing a layer of Mylar (clear plastic sheet) on a flat bench; covering the Mylar with the dry reinforcement; applying a predetermined amount of resin; covering with another layer of Mylar; and then thoroughly rolling the resin into the reinforcement. The Mylar sheets can then be used to support the pre-impregnated ply as it is moved to the lay-up. Some manufacturers have built their own impregnation machines to improve quality and productivity. To provide a smooth surface finish on the tool side, a gel coat is often applied to the mold released tool prior to the start of lay-up. Gel coats, which are specially formulated resins that provide a resin-rich surface on the cured laminate, can be applied by either brushing or spraying. The

normal thickness for a gel coat should be 0.020-0.040 inches. If the gel coat is too thick, resin crazing and cracking can develop in-service. Usually layup can begin after the gel coat cures to a tacky condition. Gel coats can be formulated to improve flexibility, blister resistance, stain resistance, weatherability and toughness. Tough and resilient gel coats can provide impact and abrasion resistance to the laminate surface. Gel coats can also be pigmented to provide the cured part with a variety of colors. Some manufacturers also use a fine mat or woven cloth (veil) as the first ply to further enhance surface finish. Veils, which are used primarily for surface plies, consist of thin weaves with very fine fibers to enhance the surface finish. If the part is cured at room or low temperatures, extremely inexpensive tooling can be fabricated from wood, plaster, sheet metal or glass laminates. These tooling approaches make this process attractive for large parts where the size and expense of autoclave curing would not be practical. It is also a good process for making prototype parts where the design may change prior to production. Typically, wet lay-up molding is done on an open single-sided tool. The tool configuration can be designed to control the internal shape and surface finish (male tool) or the outside shape and surface finish (female tool). Cured parts will have one finished surface (i.e., the tool surface) that is essentially as smooth as the tool itself, while the untooled surface will be somewhat rougher. Wet layed-up parts are usually cured at room temperature without a vacuum bag. Although a vacuum bag increases costs, it provides better consolidation and more uniform laminates. A vacuum bag cure also produces laminates with higher reinforcement contents, more uniform thicknesses and better surface finishes. Vacuum bags can also be used for intermediate debulks during the lay-up process. If the part is cured at slightly elevated temperature (i.e., <200 ~ then heat lamps are often used or a simple forced air convection oven can be built around the part. The ovens are frequently constructed of plywood with foam insulation and heated with hot air blowers. If this process is used, it is a good idea to conduct a trial heat cycle on the tool prior to part fabrication to identify any hot or cold areas. Thermocouples can be attached to the tool to monitor the cure cycle. Polyesters and vinyl esters are the predominant resins used for wet layedup glass fiber reinforced parts. In fact, polyesters are the most commonly used thermoset resin for all commercial composite parts. These resins provide a balance of good mechanical, chemical, electrical properties, dimensional stability, ease of handling and low cost. They can be formulated for low- or high-temperature usage, for room or hightemperature cure, and for flexible or rigid products. Additives can be incorporated to provide flame retardant properties, superior surface finishes, pigmentation, low shrinkage, weather resistance and other properties. As discussed in Chapter 3, vinyl esters, although somewhat most costly than regular polyesters, offer some advantages in toughness and weathering resistance (i.e., lower moisture absorption). Vinyl esters can also be formulated for higher-temperature resistance. Polyester resins are usually supplied in liquid form as a mixture of resin and a liquid monomer, usually styrene. The amount of monomer is the major determinant of resin viscosity. The addition of a catalyst and its

subsequent activation (usually by heat) causes the cross-linking reaction. Completion of the reaction is dependent on both the formulation and the cure cycle for the selected formulation. In room temperature curing systems, an accelerator can be used to promote a catalytic reaction. Inhibitors can also be added to provide slower cures and a longer working life (i.e., pot life), an important consideration when laying up large parts. Since polyester resins are more susceptible to exotherms than epoxies, the cure must be properly controlled. Polyester resins can be formulated to provide special processing characteristics such as: a (i) Hot strength allows hot parts to be removed from the tool or die without losing their dimensional stability or shape. (ii) Low exothermic heat is used for thick laminates to minimize the heat given off during cure, an important consideration for parts with extremely thick sections. (iii) Extended pot life is necessary for large, complex parts, where resin flow is needed for some time during the lay-up and cure process. (iv) Air drying provides a tack free cure at room temperature, again useful when fabricating very large parts such as boat hulls and pool liners. (v) Thixotropy, a property of the resin causing it to resist flowing or sagging on a vertical surface, is important when laying up boat hulls or pool liners. (vi) Additives for special end use requirements can be added to the resin formulation to provide the finished part with special properties as dictated by end use requirements. These include the following additives: (a) Pigments are available that can provide almost any color and shade to the finished part. Pigments can also be added to gel coats. (b) Fillers are usually inorganic or inert materials that can improve surface appearance, processability, some mechanical properties, and

reduce cost. (c) Flame retardants are often used when interior parts are being manufactured and toxic fumes from a fire are a concern. (d) Ultraviolet absorbers can be added to the resin to improve resistance to extended sunlight exposure.

(e) Mold release agents can either be applied directly to the mold or blended with the resin to facilitate part removal. (f) Low shrink and low profile additives, usually thermoplastic additives, that give the cured part minimum surface waviness and low part shrinkage. Epoxies exhibit better temperature resistance than polyesters. They have good-to-excellent mechanical strength-to-weight ratios and better dimensional stability than polyesters. Epoxies are ideal for applications requiring elevated temperatures; however, they are not as economical as polyesters, but their extended range of properties can make them cost effective in certain applications. Flame retardants, pigments, and other additives can also be added to epoxies. They can be formulated for room temperature cure, but more commonly heat is used to cure the resin if high mechanical properties are required.