Open mold methods allow for a rapid product development cycle because the tooling fabrication process is simple and relatively low cost.
The simplest molding process, hand lay-up is used in low-volume production of large products, e.g., wind turbine components, concrete forms and radomes. A pigmented gel coat is sprayed onto the mold for a high-quality surface. When the gel coat has cured, glass reinforcing mat and/or woven roving is placed in the mold, and the catalyzed resin is poured, brushed or sprayed on. Manual rolling then removes entrapped air, compacts the composite, and thoroughly wets the reinforcement with the resin. Additional layers of mat or woven roving and resin are added for thickness. A catalyst or accelerator initiates curing in the resin system, which hardens the composite without external heat.
Similar to hand lay-up, spray-up offers greater shape complexity and faster production. Spray-up utilizes a low-cost open mold, room temperature curing resin, and is ideal for producing large parts such as tub/shower units and vent hoods in low to moderate quantities. Chopped fiber reinforcement and catalyzed resin are deposited in the mold from a chopper/spray gun.
As with lay-up, manual rolling removes entrapped air and wets the fiber reinforcement. Woven roving is often added in specific areas for thickness or greater strength. Pigmented gel coats can be used to produce a smooth, colorful surface.
- Wide range of part size potential
- Parts have one finished surface and require secondary trimming
- Best for low-volume, large and/or complex components
- Best for production rates of <1,500 parts per year*
- Lowest cost tooling option
- Can accommodate single or multi-piece molds
- Preferred method for prototype development – design changes are easy
* Volume recommendations are averages and provided only as a general guideline. Actual volume efficiencies are a more complex matter requiring detailed statistics about the part to be manufactured.
Fiber glass (FRP) composite materials and processes are explained in detail. This design guide outlines various selection criteria with helpful technical data and comparisons to alternative materials.
Guidelines for Selecting the Best FRP Composite Process for Your Project