Fiberglass (glass reinforced plastic) is a versatile material that is used for a number of applications in several industries. Although working extensively with the material will involve using a
fiberglass dust collection system for ambient air filtration or a dust collection system for extracting fiberglass dust as tools generate it, there are many uses for it. In this article, we will take a look at what fiberglass is, some of the ways it is used, and why it is chosen for so many applications.
What is Fiberglass?
The "fiberglass" we are talking about in this article is the composite material that is a
GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic) that is found in many of the products used across many industries.
There are a number of different glass fibers used for making the material. Several are listed on
Wikipedia. That page makes the following statement regarding type of glass fiber used:
the most common types of glass fiber used in fiberglass is E-glass, which is alumino-borosilicate glass with less than 1% w/w alkali oxides, mainly used for glass-reinforced plastics. Other types of glass used are A-glass (Alkali-lime glass with little or no boron oxide), E-CR-glass (Electrical/Chemical Resistance; alumino-lime silicate with less than 1% w/w alkali oxides, with high acid resistance), C-glass (alkali-lime glass with high boron oxide content, used for glass staple fibers and insulation), D-glass (borosilicate glass, named for its low Dielectric constant), R-glass (alumino silicate glass without MgO and CaO with high mechanical requirements as Reinforcement), and S-glass (alumino silicate glass without CaO but with high MgO content with high tensile strength).
So, depending on what the resulting composite will be used for, it is of a certain type. Because there are such diverse
kinds of glass fiber used, there are many industrial uses for fiberglass that span several fields.
Uses for Fiberglass
You may not give it much though on a daily basis, but many products you use on a regular basis are constructed from fiberglass materials. In fact, there is a strong possibility that there is fiberglass in the building (if not the very room) you are in right now. This is because there are so many uses for which it is a great material. Let's briefly consider some of the uses for fiberglass.
House Building Components
There is virtually no end to the types of building features that have been and are still composed of fiberglass. Everything from bathroom showers & tubs, kitchen cabinets, and furniture to functional components of the building itself like waterpipes and other parts.
When you think of fiberglass, you probably don't think of storage tanks, but this is one of the applications for fiberglass. In fact, storage tanks from fiberglass reach capacities upward of 300 metric tons.
Aerospace Vehicle Parts
The list of aerospace vehicle parts is long and varied. Some of the aircraft parts composed of fiberglass include:
- Wheel Fairings
- Bucket Seats
- Wing & Dorsal Tips
- Strut Cuffs
- Head Rests
- Rudder Tips
- Nose Cowls
- Vertical Fin Caps
- Helicopter Bodies & Rotor Blades
That's right, the computer you are reading this with has fiberglass parts inside it. Each circuit board inside a computer is crafted from fiberglass.
Nautical Vehicle Parts
In addition to the aerospace industry we mentioned earlier, nautical vessels are also composed largely of fiberglass materials. Boat hulls as well as the interior of the boat are applications for fiberglass.
Pools large and small for multiple purposes are constructed from fiberglass composites. Whether you are talking about a hot tub, a swimming pool, or a landscape pond, it could be constructed of a fiberglass material.
Autobody Construction and Repair
The auto industry has long used fiberglass products. For example, some body repairs are performed using fiberglass composites. However, that is not the only application. Entire portions of popular cars have been fashioned from fiberglass. One of these is the very popular Corvette, whose body is completely made from fiberglass.
Athletes have to use equipment for various functions having to do with the athlete's protection or to actually take part in the sport itself. Some protective helmets are made form fiberglass as well as the following sporting gear:
- Hunting and Archery Bows
The list goes on and on. Numerous sports make use of fiberglass gear.
Tool Bodies and Handles
If you do landscaping or yard work, you most likely have tools that are at least partially made of fiberglass. A short walk to the garage and a bit of observation would probably result in your finding multiple lawn tools with fiberglass handles. Picks, axes, shovels, and rakes are all examples of yard tools that come with fiberglass handles.
Why is Fiberglass Chosen?
One of the biggest reasons fiberglass is selected as a material for so many products, is because of its light weight. It is also extremely strong for how light the material is. This makes it a great fit for applications where strength is necessary but there is also a need for light weight. For example, airplanes have to be light enough to get lift relatively easily. But they also need to be very strong to withstand the elements and the forces to which they are subject. Many other products have similar requirements. Thus, fiberglass is a fitting material in those cases.
As we have seen there is a plethora of fiberglass applications. The material permeates manufacturing industries of all sorts. Working with fiberglass requires knowledge, skill, and the proper equipment. Yet, the material is so useful and ubiquitous, do-it-yourselfers even find ways to benefit from it.