WHAT DO WE USE AND WHY?
Our designs are based on cored composite construction techniques using West System epoxy resin and knitted fabrics. But given the range of today’s composite technologies, which solution works best for catamarans and why?
We use West System epoxys for their high strength and adhesive values. It also fully protects the boat against water absorption and it can not develop the dreaded Osmosis. We choose ATL Composite’s resin systems for their superior quality, reliability and value for money. Having worked closely with the ATL Composites team and their products for many years, we know we can stand by their material solutions, and rely on great service should something unexpected happen.
We prefer Colan brand cloths for their quality and low resin absorption, custom made for Schionning Marine at six (6) stitches per square inch for easy wet-out and rounding corners. This may not seem important but when working with a material for an extended period of time, the small things make all the difference.
Cores – Which one to use?
The core choice is usually quite confusing. Cores have different capabilities and properties, and their benefits I feel are utilized fully in our catamaran designs. A quick look at their abilities:
Balsa end grain (150 kg/cubic metre) has exceptional qualities including very high compression strength, extremely good sheer capabilities and fantastic sheer stiffness.
Compressive strength is the resistance to collapsing when pressure is applied perpendicular to the surface as when pushing directly onto the material with the point of your finger. Balsa is far stronger than Foam (80kg/cubic metre) in compression. Foam is stronger than honeycomb type cores, both the paper and the plastic.
Balsa is also far better than foam or honeycomb in sheer. This is when the core sample is held flat between your hands, one hand slid one way and the other slid the opposite way, when the core tears through the middle the core has failed in sheer. The amount of stretch you feel before the core shears is shear stiffness. To compensate for sheer weakness the core is made thicker. So 13mm Balsa may be equal in sheer to 19mm Foam.
Paper Honeycomb (50kg/cubic metre) is very efficient and lighter than the other core choices. This can be used for external use but needs extreme care to prevent water penetration. Ideally it is used for all internal furniture and smaller bulkheads. Should water get into the core you lose 50% of its values. It can be suction dried and restored back to full strength, though this can be a long process. Paper Honeycomb has similar strength and sheer ability in the vein lines and about 80% across the veins compared to Foam.
Our hull skin thickness is quite thin, we therefore find the core works harder and it’s stiffness is noticed in the finished structure (sheer stiffness). Generally a balsa or WRC shell is noticeably stiffer than a foam boat using equivalent laminates.
COMMON SENSE SUMMARY:
Core Weights: Balsa End Grain 150kg per cubic metre
SuperLight Balsa 94kg per cubic metre
Foam 80kg/cu.m 80kg per cubic metre
Paper Honeycomb 50kg per cubic metre
Western Red Cedar 360-380kg per cubic metre