“The fabric design allowed us to get air out ahead of the resin front instead of trapping it inside the laminate, as is done with wet bagging and even with prepregs,” says Rich Difede, president of Gold Coast Yachts. Typically, the void content for infused laminates is 1 percent or lower compared to 3 to 5 percent for prepregs and higher for wet bagged laminates, says Steggall.
The stitched carbon fiber fabric also improved the ability of the laminate to absorb impact by 18 to 20 percent over the laminate without the MicroWeb, says Steggall. This, in turn, improved the laminate’s properties for in-plane and short beam shear and flexural strength.
Smaller, less structurally loaded panels were produced in a one-shot process – skin-core-skin infused together. The team broke up the process to save weight and better control the larger parts with a complicated geometry by first infusing the inner skin using four layers of the carbon fiber matrix. Next came the foam core, which was affixed with an epoxy paste, bagged and vacuum infused. Finally, the outer skin laminate was applied, bagged and infused. “It was labor intensive, but we found it to be the most effective way to control the hull’s weight,” says Steggall.
The sleek B53 catamaran was delivered to its owners, a sailing couple in Seattle, and launched in early June. Having mastered the manufacturing process, Gold Coast Yachts is now working on another large boat.