Ready for the bag

 Here is the spiral, with an extra layer of infusion mesh to carry it up on to the part. I’ve also ran my finger through the spiral to separate it a bit.


Spiral is down the middle, jointed by the t-pieces I printed.

Here you can see the spiral as it’s jointed and is taken around corners. It’s much easier to do it this way than bend the spiral through such tight radii. 

Here’s the final part ready for the bag. I’m going to envelope bag it this time – I had a lot of struggles with a bag on the flange. I usually do better when I envelope bag it. The blue bits on the top are little cone-hats I made to give the bag some relief from the socket-headed cap screws. They’re in there against a modified t-nut so I can both use air to get the part out, and have a drain-hole afterwards. The red bit on top is one of the two vacuum exhausts. They’re positioned equidistant between the resin feeds. If I need to direct the flow of resin, I have four inputs, one at each corner. 

3D Printing improves degassing

So, Degassing is the process of getting all the air out of the mixed resin. This leads to stronger parts with a better cosmetic finish – you aren’t fighting tiny bubbles that appear in the resin, or that start to appear as the resin warms through the exotherm and the gas expands.

It’s simple to do – you put the resin in a chamber – evacuate it and watch the resin bubble up as the air comes out. As the bubbles near the surface, you let a little air in to equalise the pressure, the bubbles subside and you continue until under full vacuum, no bubbles appear.

However, it’s NOT SIMPLE TO DO: I lied. There are subtleties to this, and if you just open the tap carelessly,it’s easy to let the air in too fast and get resin everywhere. Also, you end up shooting air into the resin you were trying to clear of the damn stuff. This is also how you trash a degassing chamber, and they aren’t cheap.

The following youtube video I made illustrates this with water. Read on to see how I fixed this with a simple 3D Printed part.

So, I designed and printed a part that moved the air and vacuum over to where it was needed:

So, using some gum-tape to fix the air-guide in place, I now have a degassing chamber that lets air in without worrying about shooting it back into the resin.

Making a vacuum manifold

I suppose your first question is “what are you even on?”,  and your second question, is “why bother?” If you need a vacuum manifold. Well, to answer them in order:

  1. I am on a chair, in my office.
  2. If you want to double bag, or hold down vacuum whist you degas, isolate a catch-pot or pat your head whilst rubbing your tummy, you need a vacuum manifold.

I mentioned making this in the infusion stations post and showed how I’d connected it to my vacuum reservoir, also known as “my old compressor tank”.

Basically, I’d hoped this doodad that I’d wombled off eBay would work (it’s a CO2 gas splitter with valves for the unclicking) and hoped it would fly straight out of the packaging, but it turns out it has non-return valves in, which means it won’t work for vacuum. 

I tested it against my vacuum gauge and it’s great – seals well and holds vacuum both ways.

Here it is, in the vice after I’ve taken it apart to see what gives with the valves, and can I somehow get them out.
They were only turned in with PTFE tape, so were an easy extraction. It’s worth noting that the steel is either polished stainless (probably) or chromed. Either way, the finish was great.

If you look at t’photo ont’ right, you can see the on-return valve, and as I hoped (but didn’t have a clue about before I dismantled it), the housing for the valve (ball on a spring) is a press fit. All I then did was get the right sized drill in there, and started drilling it out. Sure enough, it went pop, and the whole thing turned out.

Here it is, open and ready to go. You can easily see through to the white foam I used as a backing material for the shot.

 And the the detail-obsessed amongst you, here is the spring, cap, o-ring and ball to seal it. Very neat and simple.

Infusion Stations

So, after scrapping my first CF tub, I decided I needed to improve a lot of things (thanks Vic) before I should commit lots of materials for the next tub. First of all was to improve my vacuum management.

What I wanted to achieve was:

  • Make it much easier to route vacuum where i needed it
  • Be 100% sure that I have no leaks in certain parts of the vacuum chain
  • In my case, I want to be sure that everything from the new vacuum manifold inwards was leak proof
  • Prove everything from the manifold to and including the catch-pot was leak-proof
  • have a solid, reliable catch-pot

 

Firstly, I created a vacuum manifold, printed a bracket and mounted it on to the side of the compressor. The manifold is actually a gas manifold for a caravan gas supply, and I got it new from Ebay for about £30. The manifold itself actually has a non-return valve in each tap assembly, so I had to fettle that. Not a hard job and subject to a different post.

 

 

Next I mounted the catch-pot onto the vacuum tank (or an old compressor I repurposed). This was relatively painless – again I printed a bracket. This time it’s the orange thing under the catch-pot. All it is is something that is curved to the tank on one side, and level on the other. Thus I could mount the catch-pot on the level. I bonded it onto the tank with metal-epoxy, and used double-sided tape to stick the pot to the mount. The tape is monster tape – it’s fearsome stuff won’t let go easily. It will let go if I need it to.

Finally the whole thing was piped up (below) and tested.

Once I had this working, I decided I wanted another bench manifold, and made one out of push-to-fit pneumatic connectors. This means I can put my degassing chamber on the bench and not have to connect it directly to the vacuum pump. There’s little time between degassing and infusing, especially if you have 3kg of resin in a bucket – it’ll start exotherming quite quickly. With my manifold setup, i can hold the part under vacuum whist at the same time degassing the resin. Then I just need to connect the feed line to it and I can go.

 

What you can see here is one branch of the manifold. There’s a t-piece at the bottom, and a valve in the middle. The top is the output. Again, I printed some brackets to give me just the mounting I wanted, and the white bracket in the middle is actually a 15mm hinge-clip for attaching standard poly-pipe when plumbing. They’re £6 for 100, so I bought 100. I have many spares. The top blue bit is the outlet at this part of the manifold. It lets me plug an 8mm pipe straight in to the quick-release connector.

 
This is the final manifold – the picture isn’t great, but you can see three outlets. It’s set on an old tool-board I used which I didn’t need anymore – far better reuse that (considering it was already bonded to the wall).

Scrapping Tub 1.0

So, here is the tub out of the mould. I had a lot of issues infusing this, and I’ve learned quite a lot whilst doing it. It’s gutting to scrap it, but it’s the right thing to do. Next time it’ll be right.
There are some high level fuck-ups that were mine, and they led to some lower level quality issues. It’s the first time I’ve done an infusion of this size and at the same time with a positive mould, rather than the usual negative mould. Doing it on a positive mould means I have to be very careful about the layer thickness otherwise I have a too large or too small gap between the part and the chassis rails I want to bond it to. 

Some of the fuckups were down to layup technique, and some were down to getting the infusion wrong.
 I infused over a hexagonal core, and the hexagons were too large to not have a hole put through the middle.
 

Here’s another picture of the quality issues up close – now for the lessons learned:

Lessons Learned

  • I over engineered the part – too much carbon meant it was too heavy. When I cut it open I had great consolidation – all the issues are cosmetic.
  • In the spirit of making it ultra strong, I had core everywhere. Next time it’s going to be core in the floor, up the back and the top of the tunnel only. The core interfered with the close fit needed to bond it to the chassis. Again, this is due to a male mould. Normally I’d overlay layers in certain areas to achieve this. In this instance, I have to stick to the required layers to achieve a 2.5mm thickness up the sides and at the bonding areas.
  • More holes in the core, and a thinner core
  • The catch-pot imploded. I made one out of plastic. Air got in. A lot of air. I made one out of plastic and tested it for a week – it was strong. With the heat of the part (I had the tub heated to 35C) the pot weakened and imploded. Back to my all steel pot.
  • The tubing sucks up a shit load of resin. I had 6kg mixed and it flew into the part. This caught me off guard and I didn’t have enough mixed. A small amount of air got in. If I’d had really strong vacuum (i.e. No pot death) I might have recovered.
  • Have one KG of resin and hardener ready to mix. Even two. 
  • I took 4 attempts to get the bag on – next time I’m going to make a huge envelope bag instead – it should increase my chances of a perfect vacuum.
  • No gel-coat. It’s a long layup and I was up against the clock. This drove some of the other mistakes. I’ll not be up against a schedule this time.

If I get another output that isn’t cosmetically great, I’ll spray it and be done. If it’s of a cosmetic quality, I’ll have it sprayed in two-part lacquer. This will give a great finish.

3D printed parts for resin infusion

 This is a vacuum exhaust fitting. I’ve designed it to be deliberately flat so the release film will stretch around it. I’ve previously used these silicone connectors from easy composites. They’re quite good and just over 3 pounds each. The connector I’ve printed has a hole for a 6mm hose and a stop at the bottom so the hose just doesn’t sit on the mesh. They also have a larger surface area sat on the mesh to help pull vacuum out. Mine aren’t reusable, and only cost 19p each to print, and take about 15 minutes. 
I did a large infusion for the tub recently, and had no end of problems, to the point of scrapping the tub. I’ll write that up later, but one of the issues was that one of my pipes jumped off the clamp and sucked air in. Rather than use a simple OTS clamp, I’ve printed something specific for a 10mm hose and a 10L bucket. The hose is a snug fit and the height from the bottom of the bucket can be nicely set and held just with friction. No more springing hoses ever again. 

Thinking out loud for the resin load

Area Cloth Layers Weight
4.5 600 4 10800
4.5 300 2 2700
Sum 13.5
Resin 5.4

 

So, I can expect to need 5.4kg of resin to infuse this part, assuming a load of 40% by the time you include pipework, mesh, etc. The actual part itself should only take a load of 30%, but I can measure the weight of the part afterwards to see what the actual load is.

Release Agent – pics of the shiny mould

So, the Marbocoat mould-sealer claims to leave the mould more shiny than if it was just ordinarily treated. Well, if you look at the pictures above, you can see that it actually does. Five coats of sealer and five coats of release agent and you can see the result. 

I masked off the mould for about one inch (I know, thinking in old money – don’t care) around the perimeter so there wouldn’t be any issues with the tack-tape struggling for adhesion. As a comparison, masking tape applied to the treated surface just curls off. 
The mould is treated, the templates are made. The modifications to an old compressor to make a vacuum chamber are nearly done (subject of another post soon), and the spray-booth is complete. The next post illustrates just how Dexter I’ve gone.

3D Printed Intake Trumpets

Or ram pipes, or velocity stacks – whatever.

I’ve made these trial pieces. The plan is to have a veritably huge amount of length variations, so when I set my engine up on the rolling road, I can mix and match to get just the variances in length I need. When I say I, I mean Damien from Daytuner, but you know what I mean.