Mechanical Properties of Composites Based on Low Styrene Emission Polyester Resins for Marine Applications

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Glass fibre reinforced polyester composites are used extensively for hulls and decks of pleasure boats. Boat-builders must optimise manufacturing technology, not only with respect to mechanical properties but also limiting volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions. One way to achieve this is through modified polyester resin formulations such as low styrene content, low styrene emission or combinations of these. The resin matrix selection procedure is based on design specification (mechanical behaviour) but also manufacturing requirements and cost considerations. For this application post-cure is rarely used so it is important to optimise curing conditions. In this study the influence of the curing cycle on mechanical properties was examined first for two polyester resins. Then for one cycle (16 h at 40°C) the properties of eight resins have been determined. Significant differences in failure strain are observed, from 0.9% to 3.3%. The resins with improved VOC performance are the most brittle. The transverse tensile behaviour of these resins in composites with unidirectional glass fibre reinforcement and the limit of linearity for composites with glass mat both depend on these failure strains. These results are discussed in terms of admissible composite strains for boat design.

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