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.