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Wet Lay-Ups

AMTS-SWP-0014-A-2008

AMTS STANDARD WORKSHOP PRACTICE


_________________________________________
WET LAY-UPS

Reference Number:
AMTS_SWP_0014_2008
Date:
June 2008
Version:
A

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Wet Lay-Ups

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Contents
1

Technical Terms ......................................................................................3

Scope .......................................................................................................3

Primary References.................................................................................3

Materials used in Wet Lay-ups ...............................................................4


4.1 Reinforcement ............................................................................................ 4
Glass Fibre ...............................................................................................4
Aramide Fibre ...........................................................................................4
Carbon Fibre.............................................................................................4
4.2 Resin .......................................................................................................... 5
Polyester Resins ......................................................................................5
Vinyl esters ...............................................................................................5
Epoxies .....................................................................................................5

Tools required .........................................................................................5


5.1 Moulds........................................................................................................ 5
5.2 Hand tools .................................................................................................. 6

Method for producing a hand lay-up .....................................................6


6.1 Preparation of mould .................................................................................. 8
6.1.1 Cleaning of the mould.........................................................................8
6.1.2 Mould release system.........................................................................8
6.2 Environmental preparation.......................................................................... 8
6.3 Preparation of materials.............................................................................. 9
6.4 Surface layer ............................................................................................ 10
6.5 Mixing of epoxy......................................................................................... 10
6.6 Preparation for first layer........................................................................... 11
6.7 Impregnation of layers .............................................................................. 11
6.8 Final layer................................................................................................. 12
6.9 Vacuum bagging....................................................................................... 12
6.10 Cleaning of tools ..................................................................................... 12
6.11 De-moulding ........................................................................................... 13
6.12 Post curing.............................................................................................. 13
6.13 Post processing ...................................................................................... 13

Processing of poly-ester resins ...........................................................13

Quality control .......................................................................................14


8.1 Determining epoxy quality......................................................................... 14
8.2 Preparation of a test specimen during the lay-up ...................................... 14

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1 Technical Terms
2 Scope
This procedure describes the manufacturing procedure of wet lay-ups. The following
sections are discussed with reference to other SWPs, where applicable.
Materials used in wet lay-ups
Reinforcement (fibres used in the epoxy matrix)
Resins
Tools required
Moulds
Hand tools
Processing
Processing of epoxy resins
Method for producing a wet lay-up
Preparation of the mould
Lay-up method

3 Primary References
MIL-HDBK-17-1F: Composite Materials Handbook, Volume 1. Polymer Matrix
Composites Guidelines for Characterization of Structural Materials

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4 Materials used in Wet Lay-ups


Wet lay up involves the construction of a composite material through integration of
resin and reinforcement (fibre) components to form a matrix. The resin provides
stiffness (keeps the fibre in position) and structure to the component while the fibre
component provides the strength.
The following section gives a brief overview of the materials used in Wet Lay-ups.
For more detail refer to WP 002 - Raw Materials.

4.1 Reinforcement
The choice of a suitable reinforcing fibre depends mainly on the required application.
The criteria for selecting the reinforcing fibres are:

Density
Elasticity
Tensile strength
Impact strength
Cost

The most common types of materials are:


Glass Fibre (GRPs glass-fibre-reinforced plastics)
Aramide Fibre (SRPs synthetic-fibre-reinforced plastics)
Carbon Fibre (CRPs carbon-fibre-reinforced plastics)
The different types of reinforcing fibres and their properties can be summarized as
follows:

Property

E-glass

Aramid

Carbon

Relative cost of yarn

10

Density [g/cm]

2.5

1.4

1.8

Modulus of elasticity [GPa]

70

100

210

Tensile strength [MPa]

2400

3000

4000

Strain at break point

4.50%

2%

1.20%

Impact strength

Better

Best

Fair

Fatigue resistance

Good

Better

Best

Table 4.1-1 Types of fibres and their properties

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4.2 Resin
The selection of a resin system depends on the required application.
The criteria for selecting the resin are:

Compatibility with fibres


Tensile strength and elongation
Shrinkage
Cost
Chemical resistance
Glass transition temperature (Tg)
Useable pot life

Types of available resin systems are:

Polyester Resins
Vinyl esters
Epoxies

5 Tools required
5.1 Moulds
Male or female moulds are used to produce the component depending on the finish
required. Female moulds are used whenever a smooth external finish is required
and male moulds for a smooth internal finish.

Moulds are produced from a variety of materials depending on the application:


Materials used in the manufacturing of moulds include:

GRP
Wood (Superwood / MDF board, chipboard, plywood, solid wood)
Hard shell plaster
Metal
Silicone rubber moulding compounds
Prototyping board or polyurethane casting material

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For more detail refer to SWP xxx Moulds and tooling

5.2 Hand tools


Hand tools used in composite hand lay-up are listed for the specific application:
1. Cutting of fibres
Scissors
Roller blade cutters
Blades
2. Mixing of epoxy
Mixing containers
Weighing scale or epoxy dispensers
Mixing sticks or electric mixers
Cups
3. Impregnation
Brushes
Rollers
Squeegees
4. Cleaning
Solvents
Paper towel or cloths
Jugs

6 Method for producing a hand lay-up


Hand lay-up is the oldest, simplest, and most commonly used method for composite
part construction. This method is primarily applied on minor series, simple
geometries and mould construction, as only minimum technical requirements need to
be fulfilled. The primary features of hand lay-ups are:

Low mould costs


Low capital costs
Ideal for smaller and medium-size series up to about 1000 pieces
Wage-intensive owing to high labour content

Fig 6.1 gives a flow diagram of the most common activities during a hand lay-up.

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Mould Preparation

Environmental Preparation

Preparation of Materials

Surface layer (if required)

Mixing of epoxy

Preparing for 1st layer

Impregnation of layers

Mixing of epoxy (If


required)

Application of peel ply

Vacuum bagging

Cleaning of tools

Fig 5.1 Flow chart representation of the Wet Lay-up Process

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6.1 Preparation of mould


6.1.1 Cleaning of the mould

To clean the mould, remove all left over epoxy and other materials after demoulding of the previously moulded part.

A simple piece of Perspex is an efficient tool for the removal of dried epoxy
from a mould. Care should be taken however not to damage the surface of
the mould during the cleaning process.

Small imperfections on the mould surface may be repaired temporarily by:


o

Filling all dents or holes in the mould with plasticine or a similar filling
product.

Flattening all bumps (including the plasticine) with fine sanding paper
to give a smooth finish to the surface.

6.1.2 Mould release system


A Release agent must be applied onto the mould surface to prevent the part from
bonding to the mould surface.
There are two basic types of release agent available:
Wax-based release agent
Water-based release agent
Ensure that the selected release system is compatible with the selected materials. It
is best to perform tests before using new materials. When tests are performed, the
same materials, application processes and environmental conditions should be
simulated in the test in order to provide reliable results.
Take care when new moulds are used for the first time. A special procedure is
normally required to prepare the mould for the very first usage.
Refer to SWP 036 - Release agents for more information on this topic.

6.2 Environmental preparation


The criteria for good environmental preparation include the following:
Temperature:
1. Effect of temperature on curing of most resin systems

Ideal temperature ranges from 25 35 C that should be maintained in the


laminate.
Temperatures below 15 C will impede the curing process.

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At temperatures below 10 C, thin-walled laminates cannot cure completely,


even after several days. Curing will only restart once the temperature is
raised above 20 C.
Resins must be warmed up to room temperature before application. This is
necessary to prevent possible condensation occurring on laminates.

2. Effect of temperature on the processing of composites

Increasing the temperature:


o Shortens the processing time (pot life)
o Reduces the viscosity (the resin flows more freely)

Reducing the temperature:


o Increases processing times.
o Increases the viscosity.
o Impairs the fibers wetting properties.

3. Advantages of a slightly raised processing temperature:


A higher temperature results in a lower viscosity that is of particular advantage in
hand lay-up operations:

Improved fiber wetting properties better impregnation is possible .


Lower fiber to resin ratios can be obtained lighter final product.
Improved bonding between fiber layers.

The optimal process conditions can be obtained by heating up the resin and
moulds.

Humidity:

Relative humidity should not exceed 70 %.

Dust free environment

The environment must be kept free of dust and dust emitting sources to
prevent contamination of the air.

6.3 Preparation of materials


The fibres for the entire lay-up schedule should be dimensioned beforehand and laid
out in such a way as to be easily accessible.
Refer to SWP 015 Cutting of Materials for more information.

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6.4 Surface layer


The surface layer (also referred to as the overlay or gel coat) is the finishing layer
of the composite component. The surface layer can be applied in different ways,
depending on the viscosity of the resin being used. The most common application
methods are:

Brushing into the mould


Spraying into the mould
Spreading out with a squeegee

The surface layer serves the following purposes:

Gives the component its aesthetic exterior finish (smooth, coloured and
glossy).
Protects the laminate against moisture.
Protects the laminate against ultra-violet light.
Provides a product with enhanced chemical- and weather resistance.
Closes the pinholes in the GRP surface preparation time for further
processing (e.g. applying a paint layer) is significantly reduced. Without a
surface layer the GRP surface exhibits small pinholes that have to be filled up
before the surface can be painted or sprayed.

The type of material selected as surface layer depends on the required specification.
Existing gel coats include the following:

Epoxy gel coat (EP)


Polyester gel coat (PU)
Vinyl-ester gel coat.

Note when using a polyester gel coat:


When more than one layer is required for a thicker surface skin, consecutive layers
must be applied wet-in-wet to prevent adverse reaction between layers.
After an adequate curing time (two to three hours depending on the curing time of the
surface layer), the laminating step can be initiated without the risk that the next
coating of resin will react with the surface layer. (A chemical reaction may destroy
the surface layer beyond repair).
Refer to SWP 036 Surface Coatings for further information.

6.5 Mixing of epoxy


The mixing of epoxy should be started when all other preparation has been
completed as the epoxy has a limited useable pot life.
Consult the product datasheet for processing information.
Refer to SWP 007 Mixing of Resins for more information.

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6.6 Preparation for first layer


Before the first layer of fibre is laid on the surface layer, it is primed using epoxy to
promote bonding between the surface layer and the fibres. Apply only as much resin
as is needed to impregnate the first layer half-way.
Where parts form a sharp angle, a gorge is created. It should be filled with a mixture
of resin / cotton flocks / Q-cell to avioid fabric peeling away and leaving a cavity in the
specific corner.

6.7 Impregnation of layers


The reinforcing fibres are layered one on top of the other according to the lay-up
schedule. The layers should be laid wet in wet; this means that consecutive layers
are laid on top of the others before the epoxy has gelled to promote bonding between
the layers.
Impregnation method:

Position the first layer, making sure that the direction of filaments are
correct (The designer calculated the parts strength assuming that the
orientation of the fibres during manufacturing of the part will be correct.)
Dab the canvas (using a brush) against the mould to impregnate it using the
resin underneath.
When there is no more resin underneath the layer, new resin should be
applied. Do not keep the canvas too dry impregnating the next layer will
take longer than necessary; do not make it too wet excessive resin is not
removed easily!
Apply the second layer, impregnating it by using the resin from the previous
layer.
When there is no more resin underneath the layer, apply new resin
according to the aforementioned guidelines.
Apply the rest of the layers as described above.
When applying the last layer, only add resin if there is no resin remaining
from previous layers that can be used.

Useful hints:
Sometimes it is also difficult to determine whether a layer has been
impregnated completely. Glass and aramide fabrics change their colour,
glass changes from its original opaque white to a clear or greenish colour,
depending on the colour of the resin. This change in colour can be more
easily determined when applied on moulds with dark surfaces. Carbon
fibres do not change their colour, so their state of impregnation is extremely
difficult to determine. The only sign might be the vanishing gaps between
single fibres.
When trying to push up the fibre volume or fibre-to-resin fraction, always
keep in mind that a lay-up which has not been impregnated sufficiently will
break. A high fibre volume fraction is good to have but not at the expense
of strength due to layers which cannot connect to each other because one
of them has not been impregnated completely.

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By using a foam roller, the process can be made much more efficient, but
only makes sense for parts with a large surface area, e.g. skins for aircraft
wings.
Squeegees are used to spread the epoxy evenly over the entire area and
will remove air bubbles that may form between the layers.

6.8 Final layer


After the final layer of fibre has been applied a layer of peel ply is applied on the
surface. This layer does not bond with the epoxy system being used and will ensure
a good finish of the component as well as protection from the effects of air during
curing. The peel ply should have a trace lining to make it easy to detect when the layup procedure is completed.
Note: The peel ply must be removed before the part enters service or before bonding
in an assembly.

6.9 Vacuum bagging


After the lay-up is completed, a vacuum bag may be used to enhance the properties
of the final product. The technique of vacuum bagging has the following benefits:

It applies even pressure over the whole lay-up.


Removes air by creating a negative pressure in the lay-up.
Improves the epoxy/fibre ratio by removing excess epoxy through the
perforated first layer.

Refer to SWP016 on Vacuum Bagging.

6.10 Cleaning of tools


Tools are cleaned after lay-up using an appropriate solvent. Normally acetone works
well for cleaning epoxy tainted tools. Cleaning must be performed before the resin
starts curing.
Cleaning of brushes:

Wipe off excess epoxy with paper towel.


Use a small quantity of acetone (20ml) and work it through the brush
thoroughly with a dabbing motion.
Dry the brush by it against paper towel or with a swinging action.
Repeat the above procedure twice, each time with fresh acetone.
Store the clean brush in a closed acetone container. (This container should
only contain enough acetone to cover the brush hairs.) Replace the acetone
in this container weekly to remove the build-up of epoxy in the container.

Cleaning of tools:

First, take cloth (paper) and remove excessive resin.


Decant the required amount of acetone into a cup or similar holder.

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Close storage container properly.


Clean tool thoroughly.
If required, apply fresh acetone to tool.
Dump contaminated acetone into a dedicated waste container.

Warning: Acetone is extremely flammable with a low flash point. Containers for
acetone, especially when open may NOT under any circumstances be placed or
stored near open flames, where welding or grinding is in progress, smoking areas
or electrical switches.

6.11 De-moulding
After the part has cured sufficiently, it can be de-moulded. Care must be taken to
ensure the curing process has completed, as de-moulding forces may cause
damage to parts when the resin is still in a soft, semi-cured phase.
Select the most suitable technique for de-moulding. Refer to SWP010 on the Demoulding, Trimming and Machining of Composites.

6.12 Post curing


Depending on the epoxy system used and the properties required, post curing may
be necessary to obtain maximum strength and raise the Tg (Transition glass
temperature) of the final product.
Refer to SWP009 on the Curing of Composites.

6.13 Post processing


Post processing is done after the curing process is completed. This involves the
cutting and trimming of the component to the required dimensions prior to final
finishing.
Refer to SWP10 on the De-moulding, Trimming and Machining of Composites.

7 Processing of poly-ester resins


When using poly-esters as the resin system for hand lay-ups, the same processing
techniques and tools can be used as with epoxies. Poly-ester resin systems
normally have a very short pot life compared to epoxy resins which results in shorter
processing times. The next guidelines may be helpful in the processing of polyesters
to help extend the pot life:
o
o
o
o
o

Mix smaller amounts of resin at a time.


Spread out resin quickly to avoid exothermic run-away reactions.
Control room temperatures as per material datasheet.
Add the minimum allowable catalyst as per material datasheet.
Apply resin with squeegees to hasten the out-spreading process.

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8 Quality control
The best measure of quality control is the repeatability of a process. If the same
conditions can be created uniformly throughout a process, the quality of the product
will mostly remain consistent. Improved consistency is achieved in an environment
where moisture and temperature is accurately controlled.

8.1 Determining epoxy quality


The preparation of test specimens is required to determine the quality of the mixing
process of the resin used during the lay-up.
A small epoxy sample is cast for each epoxy mix. Each sample should have a
reference number to trace it back to the part manufactured with this batch.
After sufficient curing, the sample is inspected using the following criteria:

The surface of the test sample is scratched using a sharp object to determine
the shoe-hardness of the epoxy. Inconsistent scratch depth and surface
hardness indicates an incomplete reaction of the epoxy components. This is
caused as by inconsistent or incorrect mixing procedures.

A scratch test must be performed by a person with experience on the physical


properties of the different epoxies, as each epoxy will exhibit unique
properties and it is up to the person performing the test to deduce whether the
desired physical properties have been achieved.

The test sample will also indicate if the curing process is still incomplete.

8.2 Preparation of a test specimen during the lay-up


A test specimen for critical parts should be prepared during their actual lay-up
process. The reference number on each of the specimens should be traceable to the
following:

Material batch numbers.


Epoxy mixing ratio.
Date, time and environmental conditions.
Lay-up information.
Operator details.

These specimens can then be subjected to a destructive test to establish the quality
of the lay-up. The specimens must be assembled with the same epoxy batch mixture
and subjected to curing pressure, temperature and the time identical to the actual
part.
Refer to SWP001 on Test Specimens.

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Appendix 1:
Problems and remedies found in hand lay-ups
Problem

Possible Cause

Remedy

Resin stays soft and sticky.

Insufficient amount of
catalysts added
Incorrect mixing
Resin not mixed properly.

The component needs additional


heat curing.
Reject part
Post-curing at increased
temperature.
Reject part
Note the optimum operating
temperature.
Hot cure components, Resin,
mould and ambient temperature
should be at the specified
temperature.
Cut off air on outside surface,
using a peel ply or a wax
containing resin. Clean surface
with solvent (acetone).
Clean surface with solvent
(acetone). Possible reject
Grind and degrease the surfaces
to be bonded.
Hot cure the component.
Use correct choice material
approved for the application.
Coat the surfaces, or use UVstabilised overlay filler.
Fill and grind.

Resin stays soft and sticky


in places.
Pot life inconsistent with
specifications.
Resin does not cure fully
within the specified curing
time.

Processing temperature
too high or too low.
Processing and curing
time too low.

Sticky or greasy surface.

Contact with air during


curing process.

Joins split when loaded.


Laminates exhibit stress
whitening when loaded.
Transparent or white
components darken.
Small holes in surface.

Fabric plies are badly


joined and can be pulled
apart. be pulled apart.

Poor joining between the


laminate and the UP pregel, or curing incomplete.
Streaks in the resin

Mouldings, filling
compounds or moulding
compounds burn up.

*Notes:

P E -

Incorrect mixing ratio or


high air humidity.
Inadequate pre-treatment
of surface.
Brittle resin system.
Unsuitable glass fabric.
Ultraviolet light/sunlight
causes yellowing.
Component was
laminated without overlay
directly in mould.
The old ply had already
cured.
Fabric layers to coarse
making poor contact
Incorrect sizing on fabrics
Pre-gel and epoxy resin
were laid up wet in wet.

Most probable cause is


wet fillers or too high air
humidity.
The hardeners are too
reactive and cause heat
to build up in the mixture.

Lay-up laminates wet-in-wet or


grind the already cured ply.
Integrate a finer material between
every ply of course material.
Use compatible materials
The pre-gel must loose its
stickiness.
A Better solution is to cure the gel
at 20 C.
Dry fillers for several hours at 50
100 C in an oven before
processing.
Immediately cool the quantity, if
possible transferring it to a dish.
Use slow hardeners or lay up
several plies.

Polyester system
Epoxy system

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Notes*
P
E
P
E
P,E
P,E

E
P,E
P,E

P,E
P,E

P,E
P,E
P,E
E

P,E

P,E