Hexacor compared with other composites?

Discussion in 'Fiberglass and Composite Boat Building' started by kengrome, Feb 5, 2008.

  1. mikereed100
    Joined: Jan 2007
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    mikereed100 Junior Member


    You may already be aware of these folks as they are in your neighborhood and are distributors for Hexacor. They are building boats that sound similar to what you are planning and may be of help.


  2. Analyst
    Joined: Jun 2008
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    Analyst New Member


    I agree that by the numbers, balsa is an exceptional core material with high transverse shear stiffness and strength values at low densities, however it is my opinion (only an opinion) that there are some inherent disadvantages that I have seen through comparison. The following are:

    1. Resin absorption for wet layup application. I have seen balsa cross-sections from carefully manufactured structure that absorbed a considerable amount of resin. This is a major problem for two reasons. One: the obvious weight penalty for weight critical structure. Two: Print through due to resin shrinkage during cure from the access exotherm caused by the added resin volume. The second is avoided by staging the lay-up process to allow cure states or Barcol states, which will in return cost in time and more weight and money from the added secondary bond layer that may be required during each stage. The alternative is to apply more fiberglass to absorb the excess resin, At any rate, there is a pattern here in which more non-structural weight is added to produce a finish instead of a part.

    2. Cost variability. The cost of balsa is very dependent on its availability and distribution location because it is a natural resource. The roller coaster of wood prices from a cost and demand standpoint in world markets is well-known to the construction industry and Balsa is no exception. Well seasoned boat manufacturers have been off and on the balsa price-coaster for a while. On the other hand, in the U.S. with oil barrel prices being much higher than they were a few years ago, the cost of gel-coat, resin and other oil-based products have driven through the roof. As far as PP Honeycomb, I am slightly unfamiliar with the details of this aspect, but a Nida-Core distributor said that the material base for their PP Honeycomb was not oil, but instead a material that I commonly associated with its gaseous form, but cannot remember exactly what it was so won't say what I am thinking. All I remember is that it was not oil based, which should stabilize its cost in todays marketplace.

    3. Water absorption. Although it may be a solvable issue from a build standpoint, Balsa is inherently a thirsty material. It likes to drink while just sitting around a humid shop, getting weaker and heavier as it is waiting to be used. Expense and care must be taken with respect to storage and climate. Wate intrusion is also a factor. A colleague of mine has found that a tiny crack in one side of a boat can feed Balsa in the other side as long as their is a path - no matter how small, even though the balsa in the dry side is still "locked" out of the external environment. The water also reduces bond quality.

    4. Processing. Balsa is not as easy to cut and taper as other materials. For example a box-knife can be used to cut PP Honeycomb.


    It would not be fair to balsa if I did not mention the extensive use of aramid paper Honeycomb cores in aircraft, spacecraft/satellite structure and in racing marine craft. The lightest weight core with the highest stiffness and strength properties (for weight) that I am aware of is aramid paper honeycomb core. It is extremely attractive by numbers, processing (easily cut and bonded) and formability (overexpanded non-scrimmed core can wrap around a softball!) and cost. However, aramid (kevlar) is very hygroscopic and in paper form is like a sponge. The stiffness properties, as you would expect are reduced by this hygroscopic nature. But you still see it in these advanced applications. How do they get away with it? The answer is in their processing techniques. I would not recommend a structural component using aramid paper as a key structural component that did not already consist of prepreg facesheets with film adhesive, vacuum bagged and autoclave cured. In general I don't believe the majority of the marine industry has reached that standard or requirement yet.

    Balsa seems to have the same negative problems as aramid honeycomb core, except no justification or promise can be made with respect to the processing methods common to the marine industry, that the material will not absorb resin, get wet (or already be wet), cost the same or less every time and machined or milled easily to the desired contour. It is like the aramid paper in its worst case scenario.

    This is, however, as stated before, only an opinion.
  3. naturewaterboy
    Joined: Sep 2006
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    naturewaterboy Steel Drum Tuner

    Thanks for the info. I did cut open my 1978 flybridge floor,and was amazed to find some of the balsa was completely rotted into mud, but some was good as new. I did notice that the original scrimmed balsa did not have any resin between the blocks - i guess that this would have slowed the water down, but would have added some weight. My guess is that Silverton just took the easy, least expensive way out, as it appears they relied soley on caulking to seal the deck mounted hardware.

  4. AndrewK
    Joined: Mar 2007
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    AndrewK Senior Member


    I tried to correlate your 3 point bending equation with measured deflections for some foam cored panel off cuts. Measurements did not correlate, can you get in touch with me off line via email at ansu_ko@bigpond.net.au ?

    Cheers Andrew
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