Nov 10

Resin infusion for a wake surf board

We forgot to post the following video which will sort of show the resin moving through the project. If you can imagine, the test panel as reinforcement fabric on a wake surf board, well you’d be talented! but also you’ll get the idea how the process works. The resin flows INTO the project and then across the dry fabric over to the catch bucket. Ok, so here is that video. It’s our typical unedited video, so the first 40 seconds is JUNK! Feel free to advance it to that point. 🙂 We did!

We should have adequately documented the flow of resin across the part. We did introduce an air bubble that we WON’T be doing in the future, but it didn’t impact the test panel, we just had to run the vacuum longer to pull all the air out. If you want to watch that video of the resin infusion for a wake surf board, from the YouTube panel, just click on the link.

So do you remember this picture of the final test panel from our first resin infusion test?

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It is the one where we documented the 30% resin by weight and discussed that in an earlier post. What we wanted to talk about in this post is the ability to replicate that 30% resin by weight, or really any of the parts produced by resin infusion. Now when you are laminating a wake surf board by hand, with a squeegee, you are subject to all of the normal factors that influence human behavior. Ever forget where you put your car keys? Laminators have off days too. Maybe they had a nasty fight with a girlfriend (is there ever a good fight with your girlfriend?!) or the waves are firing and he’s stuck laminating YOUR STUPID WAKE SURF BOARD! What’s the likelihood that your lamination is going to come out nicely? The laminator has to spred the resin and pull the reinforcement tight and finally spread the resin evenly across the entire surface, including the rails where the wake surf board is vertical. It’s freaking hard and like all things human related, the chance for error is fairly substantial.

The issue with laminating a wake surf board manually is that it takes substantial skill. Not everyone can do it and MOST can’t do it well. It’s literally almost an art form. In the surfboard industry there are folks that do nothing but laminate surfboards for various shapers, they are in demand and carve out a nice living because of. The fact is that SHAPING is easier than doing a good lamination. Did that resonate with you? You hear all the time, with wake surf pundits, how amazing a shaper is and that’s the EASY part! Of course in the wake surf board realm where so much is hype and the rest is driven by folks that “think” they know and have a need to be “cool” they focus on the little bit they know and not the reality. If you have a board shaped by a brand name shaper, there is a strong chance, someone else was contracted to laminate it for them. Certainly nothing wrong with that, specialization is one way that manufacturers can pass along cost savings and decrease production times. We just want to point out that it’s a critical part of the production process and many shapers trust professional laminators to do that work for them.

So, we know that human behavior will influence the final work product and quite frankly a wake surf board is NOT rocket science. There are no critical resin to reinforcement ratios or even all that much quality control. It’s mostly a quick look over and ship it out the door.

Contrast that to aerospace composites where a slightly wrong resin to fiber ratio could result in a plane crashing with lives lost! That industry is where resin infusion flourishes, because of the ability to replicate parts with virtually 100% precision. That is if part number 1 has exactly 30% resin by weight, then part number 311 will also have that same ratio. That is impossible to achieve by hand, and why in the aerospace industry it’s never even tried. Even with vacuum bagging, where the excess resin is absorbed by breather or bleeder plies, it is totally dependant on the laminator spreading the resin uniformly and placing that on the underlying core. Now imagine that on the 311th wake surf board. It’s just unreasonable to expect that will be consistent across all finished projects.

With resin infusion, though, that isn’t the case. The reason being that the pump is set at one particular setting and remains that way for all production. Even the pump wearing out doesn’t impact that, because the VACUUM pressure is what is maintained, there is no deviation.

Also, the laminate stack is such that the part, if it’s successful is always done the same. Core, fiberglass, peel ply, infusion mesh and finally the vacuum bag. Pretty simple arrangement, but if any of them are out of whack (remember the big fight with the girlfriend?!) well the part or wake surf board fails! It’s a complete loss, not just messed up on the rails or under the rear foot, if the infusion mesh is placed up against the wet resin, it sticks to the part! So while that is a down side to this production method, it enforces strict quality control. The part is 100% or it’s a failure. Manual lamination and even vacuum bagged lamination can be any number of variations that aren’t quite perfect. 🙂

Have you ever heard of that phrase “magic board”. most likely that is the amazing combination of all the right materals AND a perfect lamination. They are also far and few between. With resin infusion, once the perfect ratio is determined all reamaining production of that wake surf board with those settings will be identical. They will all be magic boards! Well at least the lamination will be identical, there are all manner of variations possible with foam and fin placements. 🙂

The basic premise is that resin infusion is NOT dependant on the skill of the laminator, instead it’s a simple process of following a set of rules, directions or guidelines. Each iteration will come out identical, of the same materials and directions are followed. THAT is never possible when done by hand.

Here are a few more pictures of the 30% resin by weight test panel. This is on the fiberglass side. It’s a really dry lamination, so you can still see the weave of the fiberglass over the carbon. Also, some of that is dried wax, we wanted to make sure the part did NOT stick! So we left a good haze on the tool that we worked off of.

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This picture is off the carbon fiber side of the test panel.

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We’ve touched briefly on one of the benefits of resin infusion for you as a wakesurfer or consumer, you can trust that each wake surf board is identical to the next, in terms of the lamination. We’ll place a caveat on that. RIGID MOLDED resin infusion will have some variation, the manufacturer may place acceptable deviation within +/- say 1% That deviation will be reflected within the lamination. The process of resin infusion is considered close molded for air quality control purposes and that would include the flexible moldless panel we displayed yesterday or an open face tool like we document in the video above. With a moldless resin infused part, there will be no discernable difference between parts, that are successfully created. There can be failed parts, but those don’t make it out the door. 🙂

In short, improved quality of the final production and consistency between production runs means each wake surf board will be identical, in terms of the lamination for you the consumer using resin infusion!

Thanks so much for following along, we really appreciate you taking the time!


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