A: Absolutely, just like any other building material, FRP can break. But typically, you will hear some cracking or something along those lines that gives you an idea that something’s going on.
In every industry, from home renovation to manufacturing, fiber-reinforced plastic or FRP is surging in popularity. It’s become a mainstay of the global industrial manufacturing sector. Mainly due to its flexibility, durability, and unrivaled strength to weight ratio—FRP is in heavy demand.
FRP is manufactured via several techniques, the most popular—and our specialty, is pultrusion. It is especially popular for products such as platforms, ladder and cage systems, grating, as well as stair and handrail systems.
Pultruded FRP products are consequently forecast to emerge as one of the top-performing segments in the composite industry over the next 10 years. Even though the entire composites market took a hit in 2020 with the COVID pandemic, 2021 has shown to be a bounce back.
The major drivers for this bounce back and expected growth to follow, is what FRP brings to the table. It’s light, yet strong—corrosion-resistant, non-conductive, and incredibly durable. There is a huge demand that is only growing for materials with these qualities. The FRP industry is eager and prepared to meet that demand for any application.
Common Applications For FRP
FRP can be implemented into just about any industry in some form or fashion. Some applications use FRP more than any other such as:
- Agricultural— Items used in applications such as platforms and trench grating used in meat processing plants. Stair assemblies for overhead walkways.
- Infrastructure— For the construction of structures used in municipal infrastructures such as stairs and platforms for public pools, pedestrian bridges, and railroad crossing bars.
- Utilities— For structures such as non-conductive ladder and cage systems, and support structures for transformers.
Why Is FRP Better Than Other Materials?
When you’re choosing a building material for any type of structure construction there are factors to consider. Your engineers must make product selections that not only benefit your budget, but your safety and efficiency as well.
However, FRP is a material that checks all the boxes that you could want in a building material:
- Strong As Steel But Lightweight
- Corrosion Resistant
- Easy To Install
- Durable For Decades
How does it all come together to benefit both you and your end-user? Well, the truth is it makes a huge impact on all aspects of your business.
Manufacturing and Installation Time
Production time is a major factor that has to be considered when designing infrastructure. You have to calculate the labor force and time needed for the entire project and each phase. However, you don’t want to achieve efficient production at the cost of a decrease in quality.
FRP has been proven to be ideal in achieving both lower production costs and boosting quality. For example, when a design project would usually use steel as the main material, you can expect a long production and installation time.
That’s because steel is many times heavier than FRP and requires large machines to move it into place. This slows down the installation process tremendously yet offers no benefit for the added time.
Instead, whatever you build with steel is subject to rust, warping, or turning into an electrical hazard.
FRP structures on the other hand can be shipped directly to your site. The parts can often be carried by a couple of workers. Installation requires little more than handheld tools to assemble in place. Since the installation doesn’t take as long as steel, it can also be done after-hours as not to disturb employees or clients.
Going in tandem with a faster installation time is the fact that FRP weighs only a fraction of what steel does. However, that does not come at the cost of strength. Pound for pound, FRP is every bit as strong as steel.
This means your install will not require reinforcing the building foundation or large cranes to move the pieces around. Instead, the structure can be built with simple handheld power tools. This translates into a smaller labor force which saves your company money.
Not only is FRP high in durability and strength while weighing far less than steel, but it also has one huge advantage—it can’t corrode. As steel is a metal, even stainless steel will eventually succumb to corrosion. However, being that FRP is made of a composite, it does not react to corrosives like saltwater, acids, or oils.
This means FRP is practically maintenance-free, no painting needed, no brushing rust off, no replacing corroded sections. That adds up to a much lighter impact on your operating budget in the long run as well. Additionally, you will get decades more use out of FRP structures vs. steel giving you an overall lower cost of ownership.
FRP structures are indeed nearly maintenance free but that doesn’t mean they’re completely maintenance-free. It’s just that the maintenance you should perform on FRP is very minimal and brief. For example, FRP structures should be inspected yearly as part of a routine safety preventative. It will be rare that FRP ever needs an actual repair due to a breakdown. That being said…
Yes, FRP Can Break
So, can FRP break? Of course, it can, with enough brute force you can break just about anything. The difference is that it won’t just fail on its own provided it was manufactured properly. If something hits it hard enough, however, it could indeed break but it would need A LOT of force to do so.
Again, that would be a situation with any material, so it doesn’t take away from the sheer performance advantages of FRP. In fact, FRP is used to repair structures made of traditional materials far more often than needing repairs itself.
All in all, you have to consider that while no material is indestructible, when it comes to normal wear and tear—FRP is pretty close.
Upgrade Your Infrastructure With DEFI Structural Fiberglass
Infrastructure repair and accidents derived from failed infrastructure costs companies millions every year. You can mitigate those risks with fiber-reinforced plastic solutions from DEFI. With decades of experience across a wide range of industries—we can build better, stronger, and faster.
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