March 24, 2008

Momentum? Yes!

There is so much going on right now, it is hard to keep up, but I will do my best! For me, there is not better way to explain then through pictures. So without further adieu, here's what is currently happening with Solar Splash!

During spring break, Will worked to smooth out some difficulties in the telemetry. This photo shows an LCD reading the RPM from the mini-electric motor. The RPM sensor will be used in testing in the next two months.

Due to the amount of composite work still needed for the hull, solar panels, and miscellaneous parts, a stand was built to more easily access and store the materials. It has already proved helpful in the fiberglassing you will see below. From top to bottom, the materials are vacuum bagging, peel ply, fiberglass, and breather.

I experimented with using fiberglass and resin epoxy to secure a metal bracket to a foam core. A similar process is in the works for connecting the solar panels to the hull. More on this as it develops.

Mike [right] and I cut wood to be used in the new electrical and battery boxes. We are re-designing these two systems in part to improve the overall interior of the hull. The new system will incorporate a modular design which will better fit the given area.

An rough idea of where the new modular boxes will go. The two forward planks represent the motor/solar controllers and the lower is the battery box.
Above is the proposed design for the motor controller module. The components include the motor controller, a fuse, and solenoid. There will be a hinged cover over the devices which is hidden in this picture.

[L-R] Riddhi, Andrew M., and Greg work on the dashboard while a bulkhead is vacuum bagged in the boat. The dashboard will be a composite structure with the steering wheel, throttle, and telemetry displays.

Greg and Andrew make some final touches on the dashboard's profile.

This staged photo shows Jen and Fred with the final cut of the dashboard.

Andrew traces and prepares the fiberglassing materials for the dashboard. We will include several layers of fiberglass due to the physical demands of the steering wheel.

The vacuum bagging of another bulkhead into the hull. Only one more to go!

Another shot of the bulkhead.

Great News! The official Solar Splash coffee mugs are here! They are great! We will be sending them out this week. Please email me at to see how you can get one of these!

That is all for this edition, but we will certainly be busy enough for something similar next week!

March 6, 2008

Wild Wednesday

We continued fiberglassing last night and here are a few pictures!

A bulkhead falling victim to the vacuum bagging process.

An aerial shot showing the area we fiberglassed.

March 2, 2008

Weekend Update

This weekend we fiberglassed the bulkheads. This was a relatively straightforward layup and the final product turned out very well. Using a layer on fiberglass on each side of 1" insulation foam, we were able to manufacture strong stiffeners for Nessie. The follow provides insight to both the fiberglassing process and what we did Saturday morning.

After preparing the foam, fiberglass, peel-ply, breather, and vacuum bag, we laid everything out on a piece of flat plywood.

Jen and Mike in the process of a dry run to double check all the materials were cut to specification.

A few steps were skipped in pictures, but what you see here is the green vacuum bagging being sealed. The epoxy has already been lathered on to the fiberglass and it a few hours, the flimsy materials will become a stiff composite.

Will, Mike, and myself double check the two vacuum bags for holes before activating the vacuum pump. It is important to eliminate holes in the bag to ensure a high pressure be applied to the bulkheads. Luckily, this was a simple layup which made for an easy bagging.

While the vacuum begins to suck out air, Jen and I smooth out the vacuum bagging over the bulkheads. Any wrinkles that appear during the vacuum stages will translate on to the surface of the finished product. Although not always a structural issue, its generally something to avoid.

An aerial view of the largest bulkhead while under the vacuum's pressure. The vacuum hose enters the bag from the top of this picture. It is simply a PVC pipe with holes and covered in the breather material, which is equivalent to cotton fleece.

The other vacuum bag has two other bulkheads within. You can really see the vacuum's pressure acting to squeeze the fiberglass to the foam. It is amazing to feel the strength of the end product.

This is what happens when you have done everything correctly. This displays excess epoxy which has been sucked away from the fiberglass, through the peel-ply. By removing excess epoxy, the vacuum bagging technique provides a more effective final product. It is lighter and less brittle than if it had not been vacuumed.

That's all for now. More next week!