A: FRP has so many more advantages than traditional materials—traditional materials being wood or steel. Fiberglass is 1/3 the weight of steel and is corrosion-resistant, won’t rot, and does not need painting.
When you’re choosing materials for building structures and other industrial applications, there’s no shortage of traditional options. Materials such as wood and steel are strong sellers for building things like bridges, docks, and platforms. However, just because they sell well, doesn’t mean they perform well or give you a good value.
When you’re building structures in the industrial setting, material selection is critical and can bolster or sabotage your project. You must also consider the environment of the structure in question, the usage, and the hazards.
For example, the material choices for stairs and a catwalk in a wheat storage facility and a waterpark will differ. As for the wheat storage, you have to consider it’s dry, so moisture is not an issue. However, the waterpark is wet and chlorine is corrosive. So while using steel for the wheat storage would not be an issue—in a waterpark, it would. Then again, with the wet environment—wood wouldn’t be ideal either due to warping and rot potential.
However, there is a material that could be used in either project and not suffer any of those weaknesses. Not to mention it is less expensive in the long run and safer, all while lasting much longer.
FRP IS THE ANSWER—HANDS DOWN
Traditionally there have been three main choices of materials in structural construction—steel, wood, or aluminum. These materials have their strengths but they are often diminished on account of their weaknesses—but there was no other choice. However, that all changed with the advent of FRP.
What Is FRP?
FRP is a material that is a composite as it’s comprised of plastic resin and thin strands of glass called “fiberglass.” These materials on their own are not nearly as useful as they are when mixed. When they are mixed, you get what is known as Fiber-reinforced plastic—abbreviated “FRP.”
Glass fibers alone are brittle but structured and plastic resins alone are not durable enough for industrial use. When the two are mixed—the glass fibers reinforce the plastic resin which acts as a binding agent and base. These resins can be made from different types of plastics and each adds its characteristics to the final product. Some characteristics include fire resistance and anti-corrosion among others. At DEFI our FRP is manufactured in a 3-tier layered process, these layers, called laminates are comprised of:
- Structural Layer: The base that gives FRP its signature strength and structural integrity as well as a base of temperature resistance.
- The Chemical Barrier Layer (CBL): This layer gives FRP the chemical resistance that gives it durability against corrosives that steel can’t match.
- Topcoat (Surface Veil): Depending on the usage of the product being created the topcoat will differ. This layer gives it characteristics to endure specific environmental conditions according to the usage. It also adds a reinforcing layer of temperature resistance.
The biggest selling point of FRP is its strength, durability, and ability to perform in any condition it’s exposed to. When you realize just how adaptable FRP is because of its construction, it makes sense why it’s superior.
HOW DOES FRP STACK UP?
We can tell you that FRP is superior but when you’re talking about an investment into infrastructure you need supporting facts. Let’s take a look at the comparisons between FRP, wood, steel, and aluminum—the traditional materials.
FRP Vs. Steel
Strength – Even though FRP is 1/3 the weight of steel it does not lack in strength. In fact, it has a higher impact resistance than steel. This makes it an ideal option for any industrial environment.
Safety – Workplace accidents occur no matter what kind of materials you use. However, if you can mitigate accidents, you try right? Steel can corrode and rust causing potential accidents on walkable surfaces. FRP doesn’t breakdown like steel does over time due to corrosion. FRP also has greater flex which gives a soft response to foot traffic, reducing fatigue and back injuries.
Durability – Steel corrodes from just about any corrosive—some faster than others. However, with FRP it lasts upwards of 20 years or more because it doesn’t corrode at all and can be used in corrosive environments. It’s also incredibly impact resistant compared to steel which can dent with acute impact.
Cost – While steel is a little less expensive upfront, that is not where the costs are at. Steel is expensive to install—it needs heavy equipment, is expensive to transport, and sometimes needs reinforced foundations. Additionally, with the vulnerability of steel to corrosives, it does not last as long as FRP. So, when you factor in the shorter lifespan and less durability—steel may even cost more!
FRP Vs. Aluminum
Strength – Aluminum is not used as much as steel and is often reserved for light load applications. This is because aluminum is guaranteed to fail eventually due to its makeup. Unlike aluminum, FRP has a much higher strength-to-weight ratio. It also has no fatigue limit so it can bear heavy loads every day and still last for 20 years or more.
Safety – Aluminum is highly conductive, so in environments with high voltage—that’s a huge risk. Also aluminum has almost no flex so it can cause back problems. Additionally, it’s susceptible to breaking or deformation from severe impacts. FRP has no conductive properties and can take a beating without any decrease in durability.
Durability – Due to its low strength, undefined fatigue limit, and impact vulnerability—aluminum will ultimately fail. Unlike FRP which is not vulnerable to any corrosives, aluminum is vulnerable to certain acids and other corrosives. Aluminum can be severely damaged and warped by even a moderate impact whereas FRP is unaffected.
Cost – Aluminum is low in both cost of materials and its installation so it is truly less expensive in that regard. However, where you lose money in aluminum is in having to replace it often because of its short duty life. Again, FRP? 20 years lifespan or more including taking abuse daily.
FRP Vs. Wood
Strength – This isn’t a fair comparison because wood is naturally softer and FRP is much stronger. Wood cracks and chips with impacts and FRP does not. Wood is rarely used in industrial applications anymore anyway.
Safety – While wood does not pose an electrical shock hazard, that’s the end of what it has in common with FRP. Wood can crack and splinter under extreme heat or dryness. It can also warp or buckle with too much moisture. Around pools and other play areas, exposed nails and splintered wood pose as a hazard. FRP has no issues with any of these problems—it just works.
Durability – Because wood can be cracked, splintered, or even rot it’s not seen as an ideal solution for harsh industrial environments. Wood needs special coatings to be resistant to moisture and needs a re-application often. FRP cannot splinter and is impervious to water and impact.
Cost – Yes, wood is the least expensive option—but only at the point of purchase. After factoring in installation, maintenance costs, and sealant expenses—it costs a lot more. FRP you purchase once, install it, and that’s it.
THE EVIDENCE IS THERE—FRP IS THE SMART CHOICE
The facts don’t lie, FRP is stronger, more durable, safer, and less expensive overall than any other traditional material. DEFI can even build custom designs specific to your blueprints. Just contact us today to reap the benefits of FRP.