In this Guide:
- Introduction – Why Epoxy Resin?
- Epoxies in Building & Construction
- Bridge & Road Maintenance/Repair
- Green Energy – Solar & Wind
- Marine Epoxy Resin
- Electronic Insulating Resins
- Aerospace Applications
- Epoxy Resin in Aviation
- Automotive Body Work
Why Epoxy Resin?
It seems a lot of the content to be found about epoxy resin deals with uses for arts and crafts, furnishings and other residential applications. And epoxy resin makes a superior material to use in all those ways; however, this versatile polymer is the go-to solution in a wide variety of commercial and industrial applications as well.
Epoxy resin is an adhesive, coating, sealant, and anti-corrosive polymer that also offers resistance to heat, chemicals and moisture. It may be used for repairs and maintenance in myriad applications; curing to a hard shell providing a solution for the construction of products in a great many industries…
Epoxies in Building & Construction
Buidlingwithchemistry.org has this to say about epoxy resin in the industry:
“Epoxy resins are used in the manufacture of adhesives, plastics, paints, coatings, primers and sealers, flooring and other products and materials that are used in building and construction applications. Epoxies are thermoset plastics made by the reaction of two or more industrial chemical compounds.
Epoxy resins are used in a wide array of consumer and industrial applications because of their toughness, strong adhesion, chemical resistance and other specialized properties.”
- Laminate for decks, walls & roofs
- Durable high-gloss outdoor coatings
- High-performance flooring
- Countertops & other surfaces
- Protective coating for cast iron, steel, aluminum and other materials
Bridge & Road Maintenance & Repair
Epoxy resin is used by civil engineers and transportation departments in several ways. As a foundation additive in the construction and repair of roads, bridges and supporting structures; the polymer provides strength, flexibility and durability to help stand up to harsh usage and weather conditions.
In industrial painting and sealing applications, epoxy coatings are applied to substrates such as steel and concrete for a hard-shell finish that is chemical and solvent resistant - for use on bridges and other infrastructure that is exposed to the elements. The chemical and paint experts at Sherwin Williams say epoxy coatings, “are typically used on concrete and steel to give resistance to water, alkali and acids. It is the specific selection and combination of the epoxy component and the hardener component that determines the final characteristics and suitability of the epoxy coating for a given environment."
Green Energy – Solar & Wind
Epoxy resin is used in the manufacturing of many innovative technologies in green energy initiatives and solutions manufacturing. Alternative and renewable energy sources such as wind energy and solar power in particular, utilize the polymer to build components such as turbine blades and photovoltaic solar modules.
In one method used to capture and leverage power from the sun, low-cost high-efficiency solar cells are covered with epoxy resin and bonded with printed circuit boards to create productive and corrosion-resistant epoxy solar panels. Epoxy resin encapsulation protects solar cells ensuring better performance and reliability while providing optical and electrical transmissivity all while keeping out moisture.
Wind power has been harnessed by mankind for hundreds of years already. Early windmills were used to crush grain or pump water. Today’s wind turbine systems are much more complex with over 8,000 parts. In order to capture more airflow and thus generate more power; Wind turbine blades have increased in size – now averaging over 180 feet in length with towers 280 feet high - about the height of the Statue of Liberty.
As wind turbine blades have increased in size, lightweight epoxy resin polymers have been brought to bear due to their strength and structural integrity. Blade manufacturers around the globe have turned to this composite both for the creation of new blades, as well as the repair and maintenance of existing installations.
Marine Epoxy Resin
Epoxy resin leveraged with new technologies, has provided an innovative method to build boats – vacuum resin infusion. This process combines the strength and versatility of polymer with the latest fibers (carbon, Kevlar, fiberglass) to create stronger, lighter and more flexible marine hulls, decks and other parts.
To create epoxy resin infused boat hulls, a “closed molding process” is used - beginning with a hull mold cavity filled with construction material of the builder’s choice (foam core, fiberglass laminates, Kevlar, cotton fiber, etc.). The hull mold is then wrapped in airtight material, the air is removed creating a vacuum; epoxy resin is inserted into the mold in various spots. Due to the vacuum, the resin seeps into every nook and cranny within the hull – creating a stronger, lighter water-tight structure in a matter of hours.
The application of the vacuum resin infusion process and advanced composites to boat construction has dramatically increased the quality and durability of hulls; while at the same time decreasing weight and increasing strength. Infused epoxy provides significant performance advantages and is environmentally sound – a boon for boat owners.
Electronic Insulating Resins
Epoxy resins are widely used as protective coatings in electronics applications due to their exceptional properties of durability, adhesion, chemical resistance and superior electrical properties. From protecting printed circuit boards to protective coatings for consumer products; epoxy resins are used by a diverse range of industries.
In electronics, epoxy resins are also used for ‘potting,’ the process whereby an electronic assembly is filled with polymer to insulate and protect from moisture and corrosion as well as resistance from shock and vibration. In the potting process, an electronic assembly such as a printed circuit board for instance, is paced inside a mold, which is filled with encapsulating polymer – which cures for protection.
Epoxy resin is used in a number of innovative ways in the aerospace industry from the fabrication of spacecraft hardware to aiding in the flame retardancy and reinforcement of space suits. The flexible and adaptive nature of this thermosetting polymer makes it an extremely valuable component in the ever-evolving creation of solutions for space travel…
The harsh environment of space means that the materials used must be of a superior grade – built to withstand the higher heat, cold and radiation conditions existent. “Adhesives and other polymers are used extensively in all types of spacecraft for structural, mechanical, and electronics purposes — including bonding, potting, encapsulating, coating, sealing, and staking.
"Adhesives for space applications must function in high vacuums, extremely low temperatures, and withstand temperature fluctuations. Their bonds should also last the length of the mission. Adhesives directly exposed to space for long periods of time should also strongly resist radiation and microcracking and, if in a low-Earth orbit, also resist atomic oxygen (AO). That’s because radiation can make some adhesives brittle, ultimately resulting in cracks. And lengthy exposure to AO can erode adhesives,” from ‘Epoxies and adhesives fit for space’ by Robert Michaels as posted on MachineDesign.com.
Epoxy Resin in Aviation
Aircraft construction technology continues to advance with the design and development of lighter and stronger composites that make air travel safer. Typically, composites are a combination of carbon or glass fiber - reinforced with high-performance adhesives like epoxy resin. This combination provides the benefits of unprecedented strength and light weight.
"The polymers most widely used in composites are thermosets, a class of plastic resins that, when cured by thermal and/or chemical (catalyst or promoter) or other means become substantially infusible and insoluble. After cure, a thermoset cannot be returned to its uncured state. Thermoset epoxy resins contribute strength, durability and chemical resistance to a composite," from 'Composites 101: Fibers and resins’ by Jeff Sloan as posted on CompositesWorld.com.
“Primary and secondary structures that comprise modern aircraft are typically combinations of metals and lightweight carbon fiber- or glass fiber-reinforced polymer composites joined using high-performance adhesives. Historically, the adhesive bonding process required joined substrates to be cured in an autoclave to minimize voids and ensure reliable, high-quality parts. This procedure was time consuming as well as capital intensive,” from 'Advancing Adhesives: High-Performance Epoxy Paste for Aircraft Applications.'
Thermoset epoxy adhesives formulated for curing out-of-autoclave (OOA) were developed to meet the needs of the aircraft industry (as well as other industry applications). These polymers are more cost-effective; provide superior adhesion and reinforcement to a variety of substrates; give high chemical and corrosion resistance, as well as good mechanical, thermal and electrical insulation characteristics. They also have minimal shrinkage once cured and low moisture absorption.
Automotive Body Work
Epoxy resin makes a great tool for repairing auto body panels and other vehicle parts – helping car enthusiasts, restorers and hobbyists keep their cars, trucks and SUVs on the road - or show worthy for the select few.
Restoring Metal & Fiberglass Autobody Panels
Epoxy resin provides superior bonding and moisture proofing qualities than polyester automotive body fillers - to repair corroded or damaged metal and fiberglass auto body panels. Even if a body panel is missing completely; fiberglass cloth may be used with epoxy to rebuild the area – creating a strong permanent foundation to anchor the repair. Once the epoxy has cured; simply sand smooth and apply primer and paint.
Repairing Cracked Bumpers & Fenders
We’ve all had minor “fenders benders” at one time or another, and epoxy resin makes for a great repair for minor automotive mishaps. First, make sure the edges of the crack are clean and lineup when pressed together. The tools you’ll need are epoxy resin (of course), plastic repair tape (to hold the crack together during curing) and a plastic spreader and mixing plate. Mix some epoxy resin on a mixing plate or other surface from which to work, apply within the crack evenly, and tape (to hold until dry) – and cover the tape with another layer of epoxy. Once the repaired area has dried - sand smooth and finish with primer and paint.
Repair Cracked Steering Wheels & Other Automotive Plastics
With cracked plastic interior (or exterior for that matter), car parts – it’s easier to work with them if you remove them first (if possible). Then, be sure to thoroughly clean the part to ensure a solid bond for the adhesive. (In the case of parts frequently handled like a steering wheel; you want to remove any buildup of oils for instance.) Open up the crack a little, preferably making the bottom a bit larger than the top – to increase the bonding surface area and so the epoxy, once set, will be trapped into the crack and can’t come out. After the repair has dried, gently shave off any excess epoxy – and you’re good to go!
As technology advances – both in the materials side of things – as well as their ever-evolving applications; epoxy resin too adapts to meet these challenges. The polymer has advanced over time – drying more quickly and evenly, drying in a crystal-clear state and maintaining its cured form without becoming brittle.
Today, epoxy resin is widely used in all the applications featured here – and many more! It seems that the only limitations of this polymer are our abilities to put it to use.
Click here to read our Guide on Commercial & Industrial Applications for Epoxy as a PDF