Precision Board Donations: Supporting the Future of Composites

Precision Board donations

A collection of commemorative sponsor photos we’ve received from student engineering teams over the years.

Sponsoring Schools with Precision Board Donations

Here at Coastal Enterprises, we place a lot of importance on the future of composite materials. Space travel, aeronautics, construction, and many other industries depend on the advancement of different composites technologies, and we want to see them flourish in the coming years. The next generation of composites professionals are currently enrolled in engineering, architecture, and design programs in schools all over the country, which is why we do everything we can to support students. We offer Precision Board donations to any school, and we welcome the opportunity to sponsor as many schools as we can.

Precision Board donations

A shipment of donated Precision Board arrives at the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo engineering campus, to be transformed into a 3000 MPG SAE supermileage car.

Over the years, we’ve provided hundreds of shipments of Precision Board donations to schools all over the country. Universities, community colleges, even high schools have received donated Precision Board for various projects. Increasing numbers of schools are introducing their students to HDU tooling as its popularity continues to grow within many high profile industries.

Precision Board donations

The University of Michigan FSAE team uses donated Precision Board to fabricate their FSAE vehicle, bonding segments together and routing the pieces to form a composite layup tool.

The majority of our donations go to university teams competing in events like Formula SAE, ASME Human Powered Vehicle Competition, and North American Solar Challenge. Members of these student teams are required to design a vehicle, source the materials, fabricate and assemble the vehicle components, and finally race their creations at an annual competition.

Precision Board donations

Iowa State University PrISUm Solar Car team uses Precision Board to fabricate composite car parts using an autoclave. Their Hyperion solar car completed the 1650-mile course with an average speed of 65 MPH.

For young engineering students, taking a project from concept to completion is an excellent learning tool. It pushes students to be involved with every level of the production process, giving them a thorough look into the challenges of a professional engineering project. 

Precision Board donations

Cornell University FSAE car, with a carbon-fiber frame and turbocharged Honda CBR engine.

We are proud to be a sponsor of some of the most motivated and talented student teams in the country, and we’re always looking for more. If you have a school sponsorship need, please send us an email detailing your application and requirements, or request a sample.  

University of Nevada, Reno Concrete Canoe team paddles to first place in a regional competition

University of Nevada, Reno Concrete Canoe team paddles to first place in a regional competition

Sweet Phoenix: Cal Poly SLO’s Triumph at HPVC West

Sweet Phoenix 1

At Coastal Enterprises, we like to look at the composites industry as a fully collaborative effort. Every fresh new development by an individual is really a contribution to a collective knowledge base. Like any scientific pursuit, the most potent advancements are made when information is shared freely between likeminded groups of people. For this reason, we feel obliged to do everything we can to enlighten and empower the future community of composites professionals. In our experience, this new generation can often be found in university engineering programs, like the Cal Poly SLO Human Powered Vehicle team. Coastal has supplied the team with Precision Board for many years now, and every year they’ve shown up to the ASME Human Powered Vehicle Challenge with a design that really showcases the capabilities of our material.


The driving force behind the team is George Leone, student shops manager and technician, a man with over four decades in the composites industry in one form or another. George has been building composite streamliner HPVs since the 80s and is one of the foremost authorities on the design and construction of human powered vehicles. His philosophy for guiding the student team members is to provide them with the necessary tools and instruction, then turn them loose to create an individual project that stems from their own ideas and hard work. By maintaining a positive, constructive environment where students can learn by doing, he ensures that senior students can eventually step into leadership roles and help guide their younger teammates.


For last year’s entry into the HPV competition, the team created a carbon-fiber/Kevlar composite streamliner they dubbed the “Sweet Phoenix”. Coincidentally, when George Leone built one of his first streamliners back in 1980, he named it “Phoenix”. Risen from the ashes indeed. The Cal Poly team started by enlisting the help of Zodiac Aerospace to create the molds, thanks to the inopportune breakdown of their aging Shopbot CNC router. The team used PBLT-8 and machined out two halves of a negative mold, meaning that the carbon composite material would be pulled down into the recess to create the sleek teardrop-shaped body.


Students prepped the molds by sanding thoroughly before applying Duratec sealer and primer. The quality of the PBLT-8 was paramount to the end result. As George put it: “The consistency of the foam and it’s impressive ability to hold a sharp edge, even with inexperienced handling, made us glad we chose Precision Board.” 

Sweet Phoenix 2Sweet Phoenix 3

At the 2015 ASME Human Powered Vehicle Challenge West, the Sweet Phoenix performed admirably, despite a puzzling last-second drive train glitch. Complications aside, the SLO team took home first prizes in both the Design and Men’s Speed categories, a crowning achievement for such a prestigious event. The 2016 team plans to use the same leftover molds, thanks to the durability of the Precision Board. Even after being stored outside for nine months, the molds only required some light sanding and priming to restore them to pristine condition.

Sweet Phoenix Team

George Leone and the Cal Poly HPV team are prime examples of the spirit of invention and collaboration that are deeply engrained in the composites community. All of us at Coastal wish them luck and speed in this year’s competition! Click here for a free sample of Precision Board and spearhead your next composites project!



UCSD Human Powered Submarine Takes The Plunge

UCSD ASME students took the plunge with their Human Powered Submarine, “Legasea”, at the 12th International Submarine Races in Bethesda, MD, this past June.

The event was held at the Carderock Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in the David Taylor Model Basin, one of the largest ship model basins in the world. The competition consisted of 19 teams competing in a 100 meter race. Each team was required to design and build a one or two-person “Wet” submarine, which has a completely flooded hull and requires the crew members to breath SCUBA from an onboard air supply.

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UCSD students designed and created “Legasea”, a 2-man, propellor-driven, Human Powered Submarine that was designed with SolidWorks and built from scratch by UCSD students. Students relied almost entirely on donations, both material and financial, to bring Legasea to life.

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Coastal Enterprises was proud to donate Precision Board to the UCSD Human Powered Submarine team to use for their mold-making process for the submarine’s body.

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According to Elliot LaBarge, team leader, “We planned to use the 10lb and 15lb. Precision Board we had to make molds we could pull the fiberglass body components of the submarine from. Since the submarine is 21′ long, we decided to make three separate molds and join them together – a task we learned was much easier said than done, due to the large size of the molds.”

Diversified Manufacturing of California was kind enough to lend their CNC capabilities and expertise to the students, producing three perfect molds from Precision Board PBLT-10 and PBLT-15 and spraying them with PLC Polyprimer 903 Black. Once the molds were back in the students hands, they coated them with a Honey Wax mold release compound and PVA (polyvinyl alcohol), and were able to successfully pull three separate body components – a fiberglass nose, center and tail.

Once the body components were ready, the battle wasn’t over yet. An extensive assembly process began followed by as much testing as possible before the race.

“Precision Board worked great because not only is it durable and able to withstand several pulls, but it also has excellent machinability, which really helped us bring the submarine we designed to life”, says Elliott.


When it came time to race in June earlier this year, Legasea placed 3rd in the two-person, propellor-driven category. Sub speed was measured by two timing gates halfway through the course, which recorded Legasea’s top speed at 3.42 knots. Unfortunately, a critical failure of the steering control rods rendered them inoperable, resulting in Legasea being unable to complete the final race.


The next International Submarine Races will be held in June of 2015, and Coastal Enterprises will be working closely with the new team leader, Mr. Alistair Twombly, as they redesign Legasea for the next competition.

Check out more info about this project on the official UCSD Human Powered Submarine website:

Video of the final “pool test” prior to the race:

How Fast Can A Human Powered Vehicle Go?

How do you design a champion Human Powered Vehicle? Jonathan Sanders, Fairing Engineer of the University of Missouri Human Powered Vehicle Team gave me the details of this years competition winning build.

Background of the HPVC challenge:

Designed to provide an opportunity for students to gain valuable design team experience, the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge (HPVC) is a yearly competition put on by the ASME, or American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The HPVC sets the stage for students to demonstrate engineering design skills in the development of sustainable and practical transportation alternatives. As an all volunteer project with no school credits that will be awarded, members of these HPVC teams are all extremely dedicated and knowledge-thirsty students.


Since the car will be powered entirely by the human driver, the Human Powered Vehicle is going to need to be quite aerodynamic – especially if it is going to be entered into competition drag races against over 30 different college teams. A key part of the design process is constructing the fairings, of which the master molds were made out of donated Precision Board Plus PBLT-10.

This was the first time University of Missouri students had used Precision Board Plus to construct the fairing molds. Last year they used insulation foam, fiberglass, and bondo, which has a high room for error, especially for newer students. According to Jonathan: “the high level of accuracy and time saved by using Precision Board Plus was a huge improvement over previous techniques, and the team cannot wait to use it again next year.” Jonathan was even kind enough to detail this years mold making process for constructing the fairings for us:

1. Acquire the basic criteria for the vehicle based on the released rules

2. Design and test a prototype frame and make necessary changes

3. Fabricate the prototype frame

4. Acquire rider data by taking rider body part measurements and determining range of motions of each rider by taking motion capture photos of each rider on the bike with high interest points marked by high output LED’s.

5. Construct a computer rider model using the rider data.

6. Using the model, construct a basic vehicle fairing (take into account thickness, mounts, clearances, etc.)

7. Run iterations of CFD by changing certain aspects of the fairing until the final fairingis completed.

8. Using the final model of the fairing, design models of the molds and create blocks of Precision Board Plus that correspond to the computer models.

9. Using the computer files, 5 axis CNC the molds

10. Remove any remaining machining marks in the foam, apply a surface hardener to the molds, and then finish the surface of the molds.

11. Lay-up the fairing in the molds using a wet layup and vacuum bag method and seam the fairing together accordingly once the parts have fully cured.

12. Mount the fairing to the frame and check clearances.

13. Remove the fairing, make paint preparations as necessary, and then paint.

14. Re-mount the fairing.

One of the key lessons Jonathan learned from his involvement with the Human Powered Vehicle Team is that many ideas are limited only by manufacturing capability. For example, last year students had a great idea of building a hollow crank to save on overall weight. However, a veteran team member pointed out that they were using 7075 T6 Aluminum, which is a non-weldable metal. Not wanting to give up, they began researching possible methods to remedy this.

What they found was a form of welding known as Friction Stir Welding, which uses lots of heat and friction to join metal without actually melting it or changing the properties, and is also the highest-strength welding technique available. As luck would have it, a different department at the University was doing work using Friction Stir Welding, and had the equipment needed. Unfortunately, after the initial crank was built, it was discovered during testing that it was slightly deformed beneath the weld, rendering it unusable. However, they were able to carry the experience gained over to this years build, where they successfully used a hollow crank made from Titanium and stir-welded.

In the car experience:

When asked about his experience as one of the drivers, Jon mentioned that “inside the car it is a very tight fit, but it is quite enjoyable to drive.” Top speed on a sprint run is about 45 MPH, and with a skilled driver and long straightaway, these vehicles could go as fast as 60MPH! All of the drivers are secured with a 4-point racing seatbelt, and each car is designed to withstand hundreds of lbs. of concussion force in the event of a crash.


Each year the HPVC has 2 different events: East and West competitions, which consist of several races at each event. The races are determine by finishing position, and the overall award is determined by total points from all of the races and the design competition. There are several different scoring events:

1.  Design – 40% of total score. They placed 4th in the East Coast competition and 5th in the West Coast competition.

2. Female Drag Races – 15% of total score. Suffered a mechanical failure at the East Coast competition and still finished 2nd place. Took 1st place at the West Coast competition.

3. Male Drag Races – 15% of total score. Placed 1st at both the East and West Competitions.

4. Endurance Race – 30% of total score. 2.5 hour endurance race with 4 drivers for each vehicle. Finished 1st at to both East and West competitions.

Won the overall award for the West Coast competition and took second place to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology by a single point.

In an interesting and rare turn of events, the University of Missouri and Cal Poly actually ended up tying in points at the West Coast Competition for the overall award. The University of Missouri ended up breaking the tie by winning all of the races. Congratulations to the University of Missouri for a job well done!

An excellent video of the HPV can be seen at:


Pictures from the fairing build process: