Evident LogoOlympus Logo

Measurement of Fiberglass Gelcoat

Application: Measuring the thickness of gelcoat over fiberglass.

Background: Gelcoat is a hard polyester resin coating that is applied over structural fiberglass to provide a smooth, glossy protective surface that eliminates friction and improves appearance. It is most commonly used on fiberglass boat hulls and on bathroom fixtures such as sinks, tubs, and shower stalls. Manufacturers of fiberglass products need to measure gelcoat thickness to insure that it is within a specified range, and especially to detect situations where it is too thin because of insufficient application or shrinkage. Measurements typically involve a range of approximately 0.25 mm to 1 mm (0.010 in. to 0.040 in.), with most cases involving a nominal thickness of around 0.5 mm (0.020 in.).

Equipment: Gelcoat thickness can be measured with any Olympus precision thickness gages, including Models 38DL PLUS and 45MG with Single Element software option. The waveform display that is standard on the advanced Model 38DL PLUS and available on the 45MG as an option is very useful for establishing echo quality and verifying readings.

Gelcoat is normally measured with a delay line transducer. The most commonly recommended transducer is the Panametrics-NDT M208-RM (20 MHz, 0.125 in. element). In cases involving thick gelcoat, the M202-RM (10 MHz, 0.25 in. diameter element) can also be used.

Procedure: This is set up as a Mode 2 measurement (interface echo to first backwall echo). The primary challenge is that the inside surface of gelcoat is usually rough and irregular, conforming to the surface profile of the fiberglass, and because of this non-uniform geometry the quality of the echo from the gelcoat/fiberglass boundary often varies widely from point to point. The first echo from that boundary may not be the largest, phase distortion may appear to invert echoes, and in some cases roughness may drop reflected echo amplitude below the detectable minimum. Also, the gelcoat/fiberglass boundary echo is usually followed by several other peaks representing scatter noise from within the underlying fiberglass, which if detected will cause erroneously high readings.

Because manufacturers are usually most concerned about insuring that gelcoat meets a minimum thickness specification, the recommended procedure is to make several readings within a small area and record the minimum reading obtained. If a waveform display is available, then it is possible to verify whether the first returning echo (representing minimum gelcoat thickness) is being detected, by monitoring the waveform display as seen in the screen images below. If a Model 45MG is used without the waveform display option, it is particularly important to note the minimum reading within a local area. Any abrupt transition to a higher reading usually represents false detection caused by irregular echoes. As a general rule, gage gain should be set high to maximize the likelihood of detected the first returning echo. The "First Peak" detection mode that is available on most models is also useful in this application to help insure measurement of minimum thickness.

Optimal gelcoat reading - first peak detected

Inaccurate reading - first peak not detected due to low amplitude related to inside surface roughness

Note: Measurement of total fiberglass thickness
In many cases, the same gage that is used for gelcoat measurement can also be used to measure total wall thickness (gelcoat plus fiberglass) using a second transducer, usually an M1036 (2.25 MHz, 0.5 in. element, high sensitivity). The maximum measurable fiberglass thickness will typically be approximately 12.5 mm (0.5 in.). For thicker fiberglass, a high penetration (HP) gage is usually required.

Olympus IMS


72DL PLUS高级超声测厚仪小巧便携、易于使用,可以提供准确的厚度测量值。这款创新型厚度测量工具可与频率高达125 MHz的单晶探头相兼容,非常适合测定多层漆料、涂料和塑料等超薄材料的厚度。它可同时显示最多6层的厚度。


用途广泛的38DL PLUS测厚仪既可与双晶探头一起使用,测量被腐蚀管道的厚度,也可与单晶探头一起使用,对薄材料或多层材料进行非常精确的厚度测量。
Sorry, this page is not available in your country
Let us know what you're looking for by filling out the form below.
Sorry, this page is not available in your country