So what’s all the fuss about fiber reinforced plastic? This material is having a big impact in a number of industries, from construction to waste water treatment to theme parks. But how does it stack up when compared to more traditional materials like steel, aluminum, and timber? Read on to find out!
1) Fabrication and Design
The material allows for considerable flexibility in terms of design. FRP can be field-fabricated using simple carpenter’s tools with carbon or diamond tip blades. No torches or welding are required. The light weight of the material allows for easier transport and installation. In contrast, steel often requires special equipment to erect and install.
Fiberglass products have a hard finish. The gelcoat which covers and colors finished fiberglass products can be tailored to provide greater hardness or more resilience.
While stainless steel has a lower initial material cost than fiber reinforced plastic, FRP has a lower installation and maintenance cost allowing for a lower life cycle cost overall. Wood is cheaper but also much more susceptible to degradation, causing higher maintenance costs. Aluminum is comparable in price to fiberglass polymers.
FRP is up to 3.3 times as rigid as timber and will not permanently deform under working load. The modulus of elasticity is 2.8 x 106 psi.
5) Impact Resistance
Fiberglass will not permanently deform or break under impact like traditional building materials. The glass mat in pultruded parts distributes impact load to prevent surface damage, even in subzero temperatures.
6) Corrosion, Rot, and Insect Resistance
FRP resists a broad range of chemicals and is unaffected by moisture or immersion in water, making it ideal as a protective covering for surfaces where chemical spillages might occur. It also resists insect damage. Steel and aluminum are subject to oxidation and corrosions. They require painting or galvanizing for many applications. Even concrete is subject to water damage. Wood can warp, rot and decay when exposed to moisture, water and chemicals. Wood is also very susceptible to attacks from insects like termites and marine borers.
Fiber reinforced plastic has greater flexural strength than timber and pound-for-pound is often stronger than steel and aluminum in the lengthwise direction. Ultimate flexural strength is LW-30,000 psi and CW-10,000 psi. Compression strength is LW-30,000 psi and CW-15,000 psi.
FRP is only 2/3 the weight of alumimum and ¼ the weight of steel. This makes the material much easier to lift for installation or repairs, leading to lower maintenance and installation costs.
Since fiber reinforced polymer components are molded, color can be molded straight through the part. For more traditional materials, a combination of paints, stains, and coatings must be used and will require periodic re-applications. A wide range of colors are available.
10) Thermal Properties
FRP is a good insulator with low thermal conductivity. Unlike metals like steel and aluminum, which conduct heat, fiberglass products maintain a constant temperature and are always cool to the touch. Thermal conductivity is 4 BTU in./(hr ft2°F) and coefficient of expansion is 7-8 (in./in./°F)10-6. Fiber reinforced plastics resistance to heat and corrosion makes it successful even in humid, swampy conditions.
11) Electrical Conductivity
Fiberglass is non-conductive and has a high dielectric capability while metals like steel and aluminum conduct electricity and must be grounded. Even timber can be conductive when wet.
So what do you think? Are you impressed yet? Let me know in the comments section below.
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