In the glass fibre composite plants, workers are required to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) by OH&S to ensure their safety and the safety of people around them. They are required to always wear safety glasses, Organic Vapor Respirator, body suit and gloves when working with a resin gun or handling chemicals. The glasses protect the worker from any chemicals, vapours and their eyes from any hazards. The Organic Vapor Respirator will protect them from any fumes, dust, vapours and gases by filtering the bad air using cartridges of granulated charcoal, these cartridges need to be changed according to the manual, and thus providing good air to the worker to breath in. 2 pairs of gloves are worn, one outer rubber pair to protect against glass and resin, while the cotton pair for extra comfort and to absorb perspiration that the worker may have. The body suit and gloves which are taped tight to the wrist are worn to prevent resin exposure and to protect against spills, splashes and aerosols.
In addition to protecting the worker in a glass composite plant, they use exhaust fans to extract overspray from the resin gun, hence providing a safer environment for the worker by leaving them with cleaner air then if an exhaust fan wasn’t used. In the laminating process, when the first layer and chop waving is applied, an airless spray gun is used. Using an airless spray gun allows for less waste as there is less overspray compared to a regular spray gun. The resin and the catalyst are mixed within the gun and then hydraulically atomised without atomising the air, thus reducing the solvent consumption. The airless spray gun will also provide a uniform application and also reduce styrene emissions, thus improving the working environments. The thickness of the laminae is measured using a comb gauge that has varying tooth length, each tooth is calibrated on a gradient. When the comb gauge is pushed into the wet laminae, the worker can read the thickness. Workers then use wedges and compress air the bonnet is split from the mould. To speed up the curing process after demoulding, the fiberglass composites can be baked in a big commercial ‘oven’ at 70 degrees Celsius for 2 hours. In the production of catamaran hulls, vacuum bagging is used to produce high quality products with high intricacy. Peel ply, which speeds up the sanding process or it can ensure excellent bonding of the fiberglass composite by giving off a textured surface when it is peeled off the fiberglass composite. A perforated plastic film is then added, which gives a good internal surface finish. Perforations allow the excess resin to moved though and be soaked up by the bleeder fabric which after debagging is stripped of and thrown away, thus eliminating the surplus resin. The bleeder fabric also acts to even disperse the vacuum evenly across the job.
There are various tools and method used to cut fiberglass composites. Fiberglass composites are more abrasive in nature due to all the different layers of various materials and can cause regular cutting tools to wear out at a much faster rate then cutting wood or any other material, for this reason is why high-speed steel (HSS), carbide or diamond-coated blade with a sharp edge attached to a hacksaw as well as a handsaw would need to be used. HSS, which is the least costly and has the shortest lifespan out of the 3 cutting choices. a diamond-coated blade on the other hand is the most suitable option out of the three as it has the highest wear resistance however all these tools tend to wear down and shrink in diameter. The fiberglass is secured on a vibration-free bed. When these tools begin to become dull (loose sharpness), it catches onto the fibres, pulling and unwinding fibres from the part instead of cutting them. When cutting fiberglass, a coolant like water can be used when necessary to keep the temperature of the cutting tool edge under control, so it does not degrade the composite by damaging the resin or the cutting blade. A robotic waterjet may be also used. It is a big robotic with a waterjet and it easily automates the cutting process. It works by pumping water through an orifice at an extremely high pressure of up to 90,000 PSI. Using such an ultra-high pressure with a small opening allows the water to reach speeds of up to 900m/sec, allowing it to cut fiberglass effortlessly while keeping the material cool and dry. The water can also be flowing in a loop, so the water can be reused again and again, saving costs and water.
Drilling into composite fibres uses similar process except it is drilling instead of cutting. A diamond drill bit must be used to drill the hole due to the composite’s abrasive nature. The drilling must be at a slow and steady rate or the composite will heat up and damage just like if you were to cut it. The commonality between cutting and drilling is that they both use lubrication to reduce heat transfer onto the tip or the blade when drilling or cutting to vastly improve the tip life. Using the lubricant, most of the dust from the drilling doesn’t become airborne, the water will act as a collector for the dust building up a pile of dust around the hole drilled. There are different methods of lubrication including the hose method, clay dam and pan drilling. The hose method uses a simple water hose which is placed near the drilling hole and turned on ever so slightly, just proving enough water to fill the hole up. This method of lubrication needs the use of the ‘pumping’ technique, where the drill is raised several times during the drilling process to let the water flow inside the hole to lubricate the tip of the drill bit.
Fiberglass filler, short hair and long hair is used to repair damages to fiberglass or cars. For long hair fiberglass filler, it is harder, stronger and thicker than conventional body filler. However, this makes the filler harder to sand to make it level, which is why its recommended to only apply a small amount of fiberglass filler. The advantage to using fiberglass filler compared to regular filler is because of its waterproof properties, it doesn’t absorb moisture like conventional body filler which causes corrosion and rust. The short hair fiberglass filler is best used for fiberglass repairs.
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