The use of fiberglass has been increasing since the 30s. Although it was not the first modern composite material, today, its use in different sectors is very important. Thanks to its superior mechanical and thermal properties, it is highly recommended for all types of products.
WHAT IS FIBERGLASS?
As its name says, it is a material composed of numerous and fine glass fibers. “Glass?” Yes, glass. Glass fibers use the same material as the windows of your car or the glass vessels in your dining room.
In order to obtain these fine fibers, the glass is heated until it melts and then it is forced through superfine holes, creating thin glass filaments. These filaments are so fine that they must be measured in microns. These threads can be woven into larger samples of material or maintained in that way to be used for insulation or soundproofing. This will depend on whether the extruded yarns became longer or shorter, and their quality.
For some applications, it is important that the glass fibers have less impurities, which implies additional steps in the manufacturing process.
MANUFACTURE WITH GLASS FIBER
After the glass fibers are woven, different types of resin can be added to obtain greater strength and malleability.
Some examples of common objects made with this material are: swimming pools, spas, doors, surfboards, sports equipment, boat helmets and a wide range of exterior car parts. The light and durable nature of fiberglass makes it an ideal material for more delicate applications such as circuit boards.
Fiberglass can be produced in large masses of mats or sheets or even for specific purposes.
Around the world, approximately more than one million tons of reinforced fiberglass plastic is produced annually. In addition to its relatively low production cost, its widespread use is based on a series of characteristics:
- Low manufacturing technology
- High tolerance to bending
- Moderate relationship between strength and weight
- Resistance to corrosion and moisture.
- It is not a conductor of electricity
The strength of glass fiber reinforced plastic (GRP) will depend on the amount of glass fiber and the type of resin. The greater the amount of fiberglass, the greater the resistance of the plastic.
At present, the use of GRP is present in different types of sectors and industries. We can find it in “technical” sectors such as aviation or in “non-technical” sectors such as our homes.
Thanks to the versatility of glass fibers, they can be applied to different types of plastic resins such as epoxy, polyester, vinylester and other thermoplastics.
IN AVIATION AND IN THE SECTOR
The FRP (plastic reinforced with glass fibers) is used in aeronautics and the aerospace sector, although it is not widely used for the construction of the main fuselage, since there are alternative materials that adapt better to this application.
The application of GRP is typical in the fairing of the engine, in the luggage storage, bulkheads, conduits, etc.IN THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY
Fiberglass has a large presence in the markets of spare parts for bodywork, custom parts and kits. The costs of the tools are relatively low compared to the sets of metal parts.
IN THE NAUTICAL INDUSTRY
Since the first boat was manufactured in 1942, fiberglass has been the preferred material in this sector. Its properties are ideal for the manufacture of battery containers, the coatings of ship walls, filters, etc. In fact, without the GRP, the current properties of the ships would not be the same.
IN THE ELECTRONICS
Reinforced glass plastic is widely used for the manufacture of printed circuit boards (or PCBs for its acronym in English). Televisions, radios, computers, mobile phones are some examples that use GRP.
IN THE HOME
Almost all households use a product made of GRP, either in a bathtub or a shower. Other applications include furniture and whirlpools.
How much GRP do you think Disneyland uses? The cars of the roller coasters, the towers, the castles are largely made of fiberglass. Even the amusement parks of Peru probably also use this composite material.
Thanks to its low levels of porosity, free of stains and resistant finish, the application of glass fibers is ideal for the finishing of clinical beds for X-rays.