Fibreglass or glass fibre is a reinforced plastic material which is composed of a woven material that is embedded with glass fibres which are randomly laid across each other and held together with a binding substance. Fibreglass is combined with resin to form an extremely strong and durable composite. Fibreglass can be supplied flattened into a sheet called a strand mat, or woven into a fabric.
Fibreglass, also known as glass reinforced plastic or GRP, can be sold as a raw material or used in manufacturing to produce moulded products which are subjected to pultrusion or hot press manufacturing.
Fibreglass is a lightweight material that is used in a number of applications and industries. It is less costly than carbon fibre composites and is flexible to allow its use in a vast number of industries. It is a strong material and is resistant to corrosion & UV damage.
Today the product is used in a number of industries including;
Construction: including house building and flat roofing.
- Housing, including cold water storage tanks (one piece tanks & sectional cold water storage tanks), bathroom utilities like shower trays and baths
- Automotive: including car body, panels
- Aviation: it is more commonly used for internal structures like luggage racks and not for external structures
- Marine: including fibreglass boat dingy's, fibreglass boating and surfboard repairs.
- Electronic: including circuit boards, mobiles, Audio and visual equipment
- Leisure; including playground amusements
Fibreglass is applied using the following processes in manufacturing:
Hand-lay up – this is the process whereby sheets of fibreglass and resin are applied by hand to a reusable mould using a hardener. The mould is sprayed with a lubricant which prevents the glass from sticking to the reusable mould. The fibreglass mat is layered on until the right depth is reached. The product is then allowed to solidify to ensure it maintains its strength. Glass tape can also be used to reinforce the edges of a mould during the hand lay-up process.
Spray Operation – this process is where resin and fibreglass are sprayed onto a mould in a similar way of hand lay-up. The fibreglass and resin are then pressed with rollers to compact the material, this is usually done by workers. The mould is then allowed to cure and removed from the reusable moulds.
Compression Moulding – this is where sheet moulding compound, made from long strands of fibreglass sheeting on a bed of polyester or epoxy resin, is placed onto a heated mould in a machine which is then closed. A top force is then applied downwards onto the compounds which wraps it around the heated moulds. This process is usually used in high volume manufacturing for cold water storage tanks, low-cost structures, electrical applications like meter boxes and in the automotive and transit industries.