Fabrication of the hull is by no means the end of production; the bare hull must be turned into the finished vessel through the addition of stiffeners, decks, superstructure, bulkheads and fittings, all of which must be joined together. Compared to the 'traditional' method of overlaminating, adhesive bonding is cheaper, lighter, quicker, can join dissimilar materials (such as metals) and GRP and be performed from one side of the panel, and spreads the load over a greater area.
However, adhesive bonding is very sensitive to many factors including the adhesives used, substrate preparation and adhesive application methods and conditions. Surface preparation is especially critical in the marine industry given the generally less clean environment of a typical shipyard.
Hence, I have completed a large experimental study to investigate the effects of various surface preparation and cleaning methods on the joint strength of three adhesives (see 'Publications'). The results showed that the 'best' combination of preparation methods and cleaning was highly dependent on the adhesive used, and indicated where considerable cost savings could potentially be made.