Preparation for composite bonding

Similarly to coating preparation, our processes will improve the bonding success of your components. With a consistent finish that does not damage the substrate, components become easier to bond and respond better to adhesive substances.

With the development of new materials, the composites industry started to look for new methods to prepare carbon fibre for bonding to carbon fibre, titanium, aluminium, magnesium and other materials. In bonding, preparation of the surface is a key operation. GRP and carbon fibre are notoriously difficult to bond due to the presence of resinous material on the normally smooth non-retentive surface. The presence of grease or dust can further compromise effective adhesion.

The conventional methods of preparing composites for bonding or lacquering involved dry blasting, hand flatting or peel ply process. All of these methods have limitations, especially dry blasting where extreme care is needed to prevent the fibres being damaged or material being removed. Vapormatt have now supplied many machines to help solve these issues and the majority of users say that the Vapormatt process gives them far more consistent results and repeatability.

The Vapormatt process utilises a cleaning fluid, which is blasted from a process nozzle towards the surface to be prepared. The fluid which contains water and a very fine abrasive suspension is accelerated through the exit nozzle by compressed air and a slurry pump. The action of the liquid borne abrasive scours the surface leaving a thoroughly clean and lightly abraded result. The water can be heated and a mild detergent added to ensure all grease and oils are also removed. The resultant precision textured surface is extremely reactive and surgically clean.

The ratio between water pressure and air pressure in the process nozzle is variable to allow a 'water buffer' to be maintained between the abrasive particles and processed surface. This water buffer has several effects:

·       It lubricates the action of the media

·       It eliminates static build up

·       It washes the surface continually during processing

·       It prevents impregnation of hard abrasive particles into the soft composite resin surface

·       It prevents fibre damage

Until the Vapormatt process was used, most manufacturers used a combination of peel ply and hand flatting using wet and dry abrasive papers. The latter leaves a very uneven surface finish and the part still needs to be chemically cleaned to remove any contamination left on the surface. Dry sand blasting has been tried but more damage to the fibres is visible compared to wet blasting.

With the greatest possible strain applying to both driver and car, Formula 1 manufacturers need to have the best materials and processing techniques. This is why many have chosen the Vapormatt process when establishing their procedures for critical composite bonding. The speed of technological development within F1 is incredible; what takes days to develop here can take months and years in the more traditional motor and aerospace industries. Processing techniques developed for this arena can truly be seen as 'state of the art'.

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