How do I Make Fiberglass Airplane Molds?

Written by james mulroy
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How do I Make Fiberglass Airplane Molds?
The aeroplane body (fuselage) can be made using fibreglass moulds. (aeroplane image by Christine F Saulnier from Fotolia.com)

Airplane parts are made using many different fabrication methods and materials. Materials can include wood, metal or composites. When an aeroplane part is made using a composite it is typically laid up over a special mould. This mould can also be made out of fibreglass. A fibreglass aeroplane fuselage mould can be made by making a male mould out of wood using precision machining and then laying up a composite female mould over the male wooden mould. Composite fuselages can then be lain up in the female mould leaving a smooth finish on the outside of the fuselage.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Safety glasses
  • Lab coat
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Computer manufacturing (CAM) software
  • CNC mill
  • Wood stock
  • Peel-ply
  • Glossy wood sealant
  • Fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) mould release
  • Fibreglass
  • Rotary cutter
  • Epoxy
  • Polythene cup
  • Wooden stir rod
  • Epoxy spreader

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Dress yourself in safety glasses, a lab coat and nitrile gloves.

  2. 2

    Create a model of your part (aeroplane fuselage) in the CAM software and send the model to the CNC machine to cut it out of wood stock.

  3. 3

    Lay a sheet of peel-ply down over the work area for the fibreglass mould. Peel-ply is a thin sheet of plastic which does not adhere well to epoxy and will help keep your work area clean.

  4. 4

    Coat the wooden part with glossy wood sealant. The smooth surface will make it more difficult for epoxy to adhere to it and will also leave a fine finish on the fibreglass.

  5. 5

    Coat the wooden part with FRP mould release to keep epoxy from sticking to it.

  6. 6

    Cut the fibreglass, using the rotary cutter, to the same dimensions of the part.

  7. 7

    Lay a sheet of fibreglass onto the wooden part and tape the edges down to keep the fibreglass in place.

  8. 8

    Mix the epoxy in the polythene cup with the wooden stir rod and pour some onto the sheet of fibreglass. Spread the epoxy with the epoxy spreader.

  9. 9

    Add another sheet of fibreglass and coat it with epoxy. Repeat this step until the desired thickness of fibreglass is achieved. Allow the epoxy to cure for the time designated by the manufacturer specifications.

  10. 10

    Peel the fibreglass mould off the wooden part and coat the inner surface of the fibreglass mould with FRP mould release. Mold release should be applied before each composite layup. The mould is now prepared for manufacturing.

Tips and warnings

  • Use other materials to create moulds of different strengths and surface finishes.
  • The smoother the surface on the moulds, the easier the part will come out of the mould. Buff and wax the surface from time to time.
  • Be careful around running CNC machines and other machine shop equipment. Materials can be dangerously propelled from machines if something goes wrong.

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