A: Fiberglass is used in a variety of industries in a variety of applications. You’ll be shocked to know that fiberglass is used in waterparks, car washes, and all types of commercial applications. Of course, it’s used in industrial applications—offshore oil and gas-related industries as well.
Fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) continues to grow in popularity in a wide range of sectors for different applications. You may already know what FRP is but just in case you aren’t familiar:
Fiberglass reinforced plastic is a composite material made from a polymer resin that is reinforced with glass fiber strands. There can be many different types of resins used for FRP, such as epoxy, polyester, and vinyl ester. Each resin offers its unique characteristics and advantages such as thermal performance, corrosion resistance, and other traits.
HOW IS FRP MANUFACTURED?
How the combination of resin and glass fibers comes together is a fairly simple process. The plastic resins act as a binding agent to hold together the glass fibers in the structural layer of FRP. As mentioned, the resins also contain specific characteristics based on tolerances needed.
Typically, all FRP made by DEFI is fire resistant and corrosion-resistant. We manufacture our FRP using a 3-tier layered process, these layers, called laminates are comprised of:
- Structural Layer: The base that gives the composite its strength and structural integrity as well as a base of temperature resistance
- The Chemical Barrier Layer (CBL): This layer gives FRP its signature chemical resistance that gives it supreme durability against corrosives
- Topcoat (Surface Veil): Depending on the usage of the product being created, this layer gives it characteristics to stand up to the environment. It also adds an additional layer of temperature resistance.
But, what many people wonder about FRP is as simple as, “why use it, who uses it, and what for?”
Well, let’s tackle the why first.
WHY USE FIBERGLASS REINFORCED PLASTIC?
While plastic has been used for many years, fiber-reinforced plastic came many decades later. The addition of glass fibers in FRP significantly lowers the weight while also boosting mechanical strength and the coefficient of elasticity.
In turn, FRP can be used in the manufacturing of components that require precise engineering and specific tolerances. It also allows for more efficient design, production, and installation lowering associated costs.
The real sticking point of fiberglass reinforced plastic is that it offers exceptional acoustic and thermal insulative levels. Additionally, in terms of durability FRP is impervious to corrosion and extreme environments when compared to traditional materials.
Pultrusion Makes All The Difference
There are several methods of manufacturing FRP depending on the application it is being used for. One of the most common methods and the one DEFI specializes in is pultrusion.
Pultrusion creates continuous structural shapes and profiles but leaves the cross-sections unadulterated. This process involves pulling the three laminates mentioned before, through a heated die that forms it to specifications.
The fiberglass reinforcement material is usually in continuous form—hollow spools, roving, or filament mats.
The resin liquid that binds the fibers together is cured by a catalytic reaction from the heat of the die. This makes the resin harden and take on the shape of the die’s cavity.
The pultrusion process is used in a wide range of sectors for many different applications. This is because pultruded FRP structures can match the strong properties of traditional materials while correcting for the weaknesses of said materials. For example, FRP is strong as steel but is not affected by corrosives such as acid or saltwater like steel is.
WHAT IS FRP USED FOR?
The products we specialize in are structural fiberglass—that is, any piece that is used to build structures. Those structures might be catwalks, ladder and cage systems, trench grating, stairs, handrails, pedestrian bridges, and more.
We can either use a varied combination of standard dies or custom fabricate profiles tailored specifically to your needs. We have two mainstays that stand out among our most requested products— FRP grating, and structural FRP channels.
Our structural FRP grating is widely used by many different sectors in many different ways. It is a cost-effective long-term alternative to steel grating. The problem with steel grating is that it’s cost-prohibitive to install and is prone to corrosion. Additionally, in electrical environments steel can pose a shock hazard.
FRP grating on the other hand is less expensive in terms of long-term ownership and offers benefits steel can’t match.
- Saves Money— The biggest impact will be on your bottom line when you switch to FRP grating from DEFI. From freight costs to the logistics and cost of installation, low maintenance, and long lifespan—FRP is far less expensive overall.
- Just As Strong As Steel— One might assume that with lower weight comes lower strength but that’s just not the case. Compared to steel, FRP is just as strong and even has better impact resistance than steel.
- Safety—Our grating products can also be adapted with special features to accommodate your environment. For example, in the oil industry, we add non-slip texture to the grating to prevent slip and fall hazards. Of course, there’s also the fact the fiberglass will never corrode like steel eventually will—guaranteed.
- Acoustics— Many tend to overlook the hazard of ambient sound levels and how they can be a contributing factor to workplace accidents. Metal amplifies the sound of machinery voices, and other noises because of its reflective sound profile. FRP on the other hand has excellent sound absorption and has a deadening effect on sound waves. For that reason, a good example of this benefit is recording studios implementing FRP in their construction.
- Non-Conductive—Metal and electricity do not play well together when not confined within a circuit. Fiberglass on the other hand is an insulator and so it protects workers against electrical accidents.
Pultruded FRP Channels
Our pultruded FRP channels are very useful for applications where wood or metal would pose a liability. For example, in corrosive conditions such as a waterpark, metal structures for stairs or platforms would be prone to rusting out.
That can pose a major risk of accident with serious injuries. Even wood doesn’t protect like FRP does because wood and water lead to rot and warping. Due to our FRP channels lightweight, simple installation requirements, durability, and long lifespan— they are used in many sectors including:
- Construction and Infrastructure—FRP is frequently used for outdoor building projects due to its resistance to the elements. Channels can be shaped and cut with basic tools, which makes installation very efficient. Since they are very low maintenance, the cost of ownership is low as well. You can find them used for building structures such as stairs, ladder systems, and catwalks.
- Telecommunications— Thanks to the non-conductive trait and EMI/RFI transparency of our FRP channels. It makes them ideal for environments where communications interference must be kept to a minimum. Applications such as data centers and other similar applications make extensive use of FRP channels.
- Tool Manufacturing— FRP can be made into such a variety of shapes, sizes, and dimensions that it’s perfect for tool manufacturing. Walk into any hardware store and you can see FRP at work in handles for hammers, shovels, cutters, and more.
WHAT CAN DEFI DO FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
With the rapid rate of inflation, FRP is becoming even more popular for long-term value over steel and lumber. If you want to see how our structural fiberglass products can impact your business contact us today.