Fiberglass is a reinforced woven material embedded with glass in the form of fibers. The material is then set in resin or another form of binding agent in order to create an extremely strong composite material. The fibers are usually randomly arranged and then flattened into a sheet.
The material is known to be very durable and is able to be bought in many forms including the raw material, sheets or rods. The glass reinforced plastic can be subjected to pultrusion or hot press manufacturing to create a number of shapes depending on the application.
The material was first pateneted by Hermann Hammesfahr in the United States in 1880 and has been mass produced since the early 1930’s after the discovery of glass strands by Games Slayter. Fiberglass is popular amongst many industries such as the aviation, automobile and electronic manufacture, but it’s specific properties also mean that it is a good material for the building and structural industry.
There are many fiber composite materials which have been developed since the early 1960s to be a substitute for steel in order to be used as reinforcement in concrete slabs and columns. These uni-directional fibers are normally flaccid, but they are made into rods by compositing with resins such as epoxy or vinyl to make turgid.
It should be noted that fiberglass reinforcement design codes vary wildly from country to country and many lend themselves to overdesigning buildings in order to remain safe. This mostly comes from the fact that the material is not commonly used. Care must be taken when using new materials for construction. For the US, ACI-440, 2001 gives some instruction of engineers when designing buildings, though are widely thought to be conservative, especially for tension rod design.
This modern material has many industrial applications due to its material properties such as its lightweight feel and high strength. These fibers also have the advantages of high strength, low weight and negligible corrosivity and resistance to UV damage. They also offer maintenance free products which can come in a range of colors and sizes. While they are still more expensive than conventional steel, the are much more economically viable than carbon fiber products.
Fiberglass can be used for many different products in the building industry. These include the following:
- Roofing and Roof Decks
- Form Decks
- Louvers and Ridge Vents
- Gutters and Downspouts
- Daylighting Panels
- Agricultural Building Panels
- Cooling Tower Panels
- Girders and Beams
In addition to this, fiberglass is especially useful in corrosive conditions in which steel may need to undergo expensive treatments and maintenance in order to prevent structural instability. Fiberglass beams, channels and other structural shapes are able to provide users with excellent lasting performance with minimal maintenance. Many companies offer sections for both primary and secondary beams which can be specifically designed for high loads or long spans.
Specialised companies, such as Enduro, offer a range of solutions which are as varied as the engineering sector itself. The fiberglass panels and sections can be used as non-corrosive and structurally viable options for many projects including conventional buildings, wastewater treatment facilities, transparent buildings and EMI Test Enclosures. Due to the upfront cost of this material, it is most likely used for projects with especially challenging environmental conditions which could cause structural problems in the long-term of conventional materials are used.
Enduro Composites. (2018). Fiberglass Buildings. Retrieved from endurocomposites.com: https://endurocomposites.com/products/building-products/fiberglass-buildings/
FGD. (2018, February). What is Fibreglass or Fiberglass? Retrieved from fibreglassdirect.co.uk: https://www.fibreglassdirect.co.uk/blog/post/what-is-fibreglass-or-fiberglass/
Gordon, J. E. (1991). The New Science of Strong Materials. UK: Penguin.