“The post-curing process was a challenge,” Potts recalls. Every epoxy-infused part, including some of the company’s hulls, are post-cured for eight hours at 135 F. It took some trial and error before the team realized they needed consistent temperatures, which it achieved with the addition of thermocouples.
“We have some good quality control processes that we developed over many, many parts that enabled us to dial in the process that makes this near flawless,” Potts says. According to information from Huntsman, the epoxy resin showed a cured shrinkage of less than 2 percent compared to 7 to 10 percent for polyester and vinyl ester and yielded perfect, unblemished parts right out of the mold.
After three years of in-house research, Scout Bouts debuted its 42-foot-long luxury sport fishing boat, the 420 LXF, in February 2015. Today Scout uses epoxy infusion on three models – 35-, 38- and 42-footers – with plans to soon release a 53-foot boat using the same production method.
Solutions to Speed Up Production
Epoxy infusion allowed Scout Boats to blend the performance of a fishing boat with the aesthetics of a high-end, center-console cruiser. But it was the closed mold process that ultimately allowed the team to reduce the injection time on its epoxy-infused boats from 1½ hours to 45 minutes. Scout is now able to produce each hull in less than a week and a completed boat every 3 to 3½ weeks.
With today’s high market demand, other boat builders are looking for new ways to speed processes along. In the spirit of simplifying production, PolyOne released its Hammerhead™ Marine Composite Panels during CAMX 2017 to replace the laborious hand lay-up and vacuum assisted process with a single ready-to-install panel. The panels will be distributed exclusively by Composites One.
“It was the need for labor savings [around surface preparation, sanding, ease of installation] that we were addressing,” explains Darcy Hornberger, application development manager for PolyOne Advanced Composites. “We heard a common desire for reducing labor costs when talking with several boat builders. They confirmed that a panel that could help them reduce the labor involved in boat construction would be a game-changer for the industry. Our panels reduce the need to glass-in traditional plywood or use hand lay-up for core construction, which is also time consuming.”