Vacuum Infusion Process (VIP) is the name of the technique used to make composites. In Maine, this is the new generation of composites and much of our advancement in the state is owed to the North Star Alliance which administers Federal funding Maine received a few years ago and to the Maine Advanced Technology Center which trains people in VIP using world experts in the technology. VIP is easy in concept, difficult in practice: the reinforcements for the part (carbon, kevlar, fiberglass, core materials). Our oar blades are a couple layers of Carbon Fiber on either side of a core called, Soric. The core adds stiffness without much weight; the carbon gives the strength. HOW the carbon is sized, the weave pattern, the fiber orientation all impact the properties of the oar. This will take time to develop, but we believe it is worthwhile. Part of the difficulty is that so few are taking on VIP in small shops to produce part. WE ARE PAVING OUR OWN WAY!
These pictures show some of the behind-the-scenes of the process. The carbon fiber is a woven fabric like any that cuts with scissors. We cut it to a pattern a little oversize. The carbon has a stiffness to it that harks to it's eventual properties when infused with resin. Yet, it drapes like any fabric might. The shop is getting a little cool now so, to keep mold temperatures and ambient curing temperatures up, we create a warm environment with good-ol' lamps. There will be plenty more to show after the next set of blades is complete this week.