Michelle Courtney was entrusted to be the person in charge of the first composite layup we did for the airplane. Needless to say, it was quite a learning experience! We lost the first set of cloth/resin parts that we made, but with some help, we were able to complete the first step successfully! Here is how she remembered the events:
December 16th –
With a handful of team members we got started on the first step of the fuselage build – 3 areas of ply layup for structural strengthening comprising 4 different shapes. This was the first time after our composite class that we would apply our new knowledge of wet layup of fiberglass and resin handling. We cut out templates for the shapes to support cutting them out of fiberglass, promoted the first gallon of resin and catalyzed resin enough to saturate a large chunk of fiberglass cloth. After impregnating the cloth with resin and sandwiching it between two layers of clear plastic, we started cutting out the plies with scissors using shape templates. Unfortunately by this stage 30mins had passed and the resin was already gelling and couldn’t be applied to the fuselage.
Take 2! Before we started we got some extremely helpful guidance on how to manage our materials and time from Chris Yeeles – veteran Glasair builder. This meant we used different fiberglass cutting tools (eg ‘pizza cutter’) and techniques (starting with bias cut pieces of fabric to simplify shape alignment), measured the resin and catalyst with more precise and easy to handle equipment (pumping resin out a can, using a 3cc syringe to measure tenths of ccs of catalyst, little dixie cups for mixing the resin), and laid up one layer at a time on the fuselage giving ourselves a 15minute life of each dixie cup of resin.
Things that went well:
-Communication was open and multiple techniques were experimented with to find the best fit for the task
-Plenty of volunteers wanted to try different subtasks – fiberglass cutting, resin catalyzing and application.
-Cleaning up of the space to how it was before we arrived
-A smallish team with a task lead.
Things we learned:
-Deal with one area, shape and layer at a time during wet layups of composite.
-Catalyze a small amount of resin at a time (~40gms resin+~0.4cc of catalyst)
-The right tools and techniques have a huge impact of task time and success rate
-Use sub teams (1-2 ppl) working on separate areas simultaneously where space / tools / materials allow
-Due to size of the available workspace and the number of subtasks and work sequence, limit the build session team sizes to around 4-6 team members
-Resin smells really bad and needs to be applied in a very well ventilated area!