The question is: Can you make your own power (AC/DC) distribution panel cheaper than you can buy one? NO! But I'm doing it anyways. Why? Because I can and now that boating
season has wrapped up I have a need to tinker. So a custom power distribution panel seems like a good project.
I found a material that is basically dyed carbon fiber, Texalium. It comes in a number of colors and is used primarily as an overlay in various applications. It's not like carbon fiber, it's stiff and will not drape over odd shaped objects but it's perfect for flat panels
The primary color for the boat is blue so this'll add a nice custom touch. Next step was to plan the panel. Hmmm? A quick google
search turns up "Front Panel Designer
". Great lil' app perfectly suited to the task. Here's what the output looks like.
Front Panel is designed for people to have them manufacture their panels
for you. It'll even cost out the project. They can't engrave on Texalium so we'll use adhesive
backed laser engraved labels. Switches are all Carling marine
, breakers are all Blue Sea, LED's are Blue Sea as well as the battery
switch and analog meters. AC Selector source is Kraus & Naimer.
I got started on this project today creating the panel. Texalium is only 0.015" thick so I had to lay up some fiberglass
mat to get to the 1/8" thickness req'd for a panel. Took about half an hour to cut and lay up the various materials. One layer of 1708 biaxial & 2mm core
mat for the substrate then the Texalium. This gets overlayed with a very fine peel ply (makes peeling everything apart easy hence the name and leaves a nice fine matt finish) (nylon sheet) and the flow media. This gets covered by a special vacuum bagging (infusion) film. Vacuum is applied and the entire stack gets compressed.
Started infusing the panel at 1500 hrs and it was fully infused 40 mins later.
The reddish color comes from the plastic flow media (plastic screen). Resin is fed in the bottom and migrates across the layup
to the vacuum at the top. This is done under high vacuum 29" HG. Here's the fully infused panel.
It'll take at least 24 hrs before I can start to pull it apart. The epoxy
resin is very thin and has a very long pot life (4 hrs). Because it's such a thin panel I might leave it for 48 hrs for it to stiffen up a bit more before handling it.
Just a rough estimate but this panel cost approx. $50 in materials counting the 4 oz. of epoxy
I spilled on the basement floor (which is now waterproofed). There's enough material there to make 3 panels 8" wide x 18" high. Will post pics when I part it from the tooling surface. Standby.