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Ashland’s Maxguard GT tooling gelcoat, AME 6000 T-35 skin coat and Aropol XO tooling resin, a three step XO tooling concept to achieve a great tooling finish without tooling resin shrinkage
What do recreational boats, windmill blades and swimming pools have in common? More than you might think !
All three of these products are made out of fiberglass reinforced plastics (FRP) – a composite material consisting of fiber glass and resins. FRP composites are lightweight, waterproof, weather-resistant and extremely durable, making them ideal for these applications.
In addition, they all need to be built using an FRP mold. Making the mold, or the tool as it is also called, can be tricky. It must be perfect in order to cast a boat hull or a windmill blade that is completely free of imperfections. Even tiny defects in the tool can compromise the structural strength of the molded FRP component. Applying the right combination of high quality resins and gelcoats to the fiberglass is especially crucial during the tooling process.
In this way, Ashland Performance Materials, a commercial unit of Ashland Inc., has developed its proprietary XO tooling concept, comprising three premium Ashland gelcoat and resin products ideally formulated to make high-quality tooling easy and efficient.
To build a mold, you first need a perfectly polished version of the shape that you want to cast, such as a boat hull. This shape is made out of a material that is weaker than the final boat hull needs to be, but strong enough to serve as a stencil for the mold. In order to make the tool for a boat hull, between 0.5-1 millimeter of gelcoat is applied as the first layer, which provides strength and a glossy finish. Ashland’s MaxguardTM GT is a premium, high-strength tooling gelcoat based on epoxy vinyl ester, guaranteeing a hard and glossy tool finish. Its supreme mechanical and chemical resistance ensures a perfectly smooth finish of the mold – essential for the casting of flawless products. In addition, it increases the useful life of the tool, making it possible to cast many perfect products in the same mold.
The second step in tooling is to apply an extremely strong 1-2 millimeter skin coat resin to bond with the gelcoat to form a laminate. This resin’s function is to strengthen the gelcoat and to ensure it does not crack. Ashland’s AMETM 6000 T-35 skin coat is a special epoxy vinyl ester based resin with exceptionally low shrinkage. The skin coat resin with its low viscosity and high mechanical strength gives an initial layer free of cavities and provides the ideal support base for the tooling gelcoat.
The final step in the mold-making process is the tooling resin, which gives the tool its final structure. Most tooling resins are polyester resins that generally have a tendency to shrink more than the gelcoat and skin coat laminate to which they bond. As the mold needs to be perfect time and again, the smallest deformations can ruin it, making it critical that resin shrinkage be eliminated or minimized in order to keep the tool surface smooth. Ashland’s tooling concept has the answer to this problem as well. AROPOLTM XO is a unique tooling resin based on Ashland’s proven low-profile technology, which gives the final tool a superior surface profile with close to perfect dimensional stability. The low-viscosity and good-curing characteristics of AROPOL XO tooling resin make it easy to apply and easy to achieve good final laminate properties.
“Our three step XO tooling concept, consisting of Ashland’s Maxguard GT tooling gelcoat, AME 6000 T-35 skin coat and Aropol XO tooling resin is unique in its class,” explained Magnus Johansson, senior brand manager, Ashland Performance Materials, Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). “The three products are tuned to work together in order to achieve a great tooling finish. Our proven technology eliminates tooling resin shrinkage and solves a major challenge that our customers face in the tooling area.”