With a new year comes new members – lots of them – which makes it a perfect time to start from the basics. First on the agenda for the school year is Valkyrie’s body layup. Now, we have to give a big thanks to Custom Composites Technologies Inc. for really helping us out in this department. Not only did they give us a HUGE oven to bake our molds, but also a lot of workshop space to do the actual layup. The hitch? They’re actually located in Bath, Maine. So add a 3 hour drive (give or take traffic and aggressive drivers) and we’re good to go.
Did I mention that Custom Composites Technologies Inc. also made our molds? They’re really great. If you’re new to this, let’s start from the beginning so that you can really appreciate how much they’ve done for us. First, a male mold is made from a CAD model using a 5 axis CNC. Then the female molds that we actually use for the layup are made as the opposite of the original male mold – the bottom is the red mold and the top is the grey one. The thing about the molds is that the red one was sealed and the grey one wasn’t. So we sealed the top one after cleaning the molds thoroughly for anything that could prevent a good quality finish on the exterior of the car. Meanwhile, we started to make templates for the pieces of fabric going on the car and begin to cut the carbon fiber and kevlar..
If you’ve ever had to make templates and cut materials before, you’ll know just how complicated it can be. Between trying to fit lots of curves and taping materials carefully so they don’t fray, the night started to get pretty long. Finally we got around to sealing and Frekote-ing the molds (so that the carbon fiber and kevlar come cleanly off the molds) and we were ready to get everyone on their feet and putting the pieces of the car together. Then we started mixing epoxy.
In case this all is really new to you, epoxy is a mix of a resin and a hardener, or in other words, a little more work than pulling out a gluestick. Also, you want to mix it constantly and in smaller portions to keep it just right for applying to the fabric. As a result, we had an entire work table covered in plastic cups and epoxy which smelled a lot like fish (in case you were wondering). In hordes around the molds, people intensely applied epoxy all over the carbon fiber/kevlar (carbon fiber on bottom and kevlar with some unifiber carbon fiber on top). Now don’t take this as an easy task either – the canopy just about gave some of us migraines as we tried to fit the pieces we had just cut from templates, but after some quick modifications, things begin to fit properly.
Finally, we just had to vacuum seal both molds and stick them in the oven as we watched the sun rise out of windows that we didn’t realize were there before. Done at 7am. Not a bad 8 hours of work. Granted, that wasn’t the initial plan at all until the truck with our prepregs got delayed. Now mark your calendars – Valkyrie’s body should be finished this Saturday, November 2!
(Time lapse coming soon!)
Post written by another team member.