The latest surface technology that significantly reduces shell manufacturing time within the wind blade surface finishing process has been introduced by the composites company Hexcel Corp., Stamford, CT/USA. HexPly XF increases overall blade manufacturing efficiency by reducing time in the mold by up to 2 hours and by banishing surface defects that require rework before painting.
The new technology introduces a new material format as the surface finishing layer, eliminating the need for a traditional in-mold gel coating process. For infused rotor blades, it is a lightweight nonwoven semi-preg construction, comprising an epoxy resin matrix, which co-cures with standard epoxy infusion systems.
HexPly XF can be quickly applied by hand or with semi-automated layup equipment. It features one self-adhesive, surface finishing side - indicated by a removable protective foil. This side of the prepreg is placed against a release agent treated mold surface. Once the material has been positioned, the lay-up of the blade shell structure can start immediately, and the laminate can be infused. After curing, the blade is de-molded with minimal preparation needed before painting.
The material is less than half the weight of a typical gel coat per m², reducing the overall weight of the blade. Additionally, the consistent areal weight and thickness of the prepreg film provide a completely uniform surface coating, ensuring blade weight distribution and balance are maintained.
With no need to handle or mix liquid chemicals as in the gel coat process, HexPly XF also improves the health and safety working conditions on the shop floor.