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Fiberglass FAQ and Terminology

  • What is fiberglass?

  • What is FRP?

  • Is FRP durable?

  • Will FRP burn?

  • FRP Terminology

  • Architectural Definitions

  • Fiberglass History

    1. What is fiberglass? A material consisting of extremely fine glass fibers, used in making various products, such as yarns, fabrics, insulators, and structural objects or parts. Fiberglass fibers are made from molten glass extruded at a specified diameter.
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    2. What is FRP? Frp (fiberglass reinforced plastic), is a composite made from fiberglass reinforcement in a plastic (polymer) matrix.
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    3. Is FRP durable? Frp products are extremely durable versus many traditional products. The thermosetting resin properties provide chemical, moisture, and temperature resistance, while the fiberglass reinforcement increases strength and provides good performance over a wide temperature range (the properties of thermoplastics are greatly affected by temperature).
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    4. Will FRP burn? Frp can be modified with additives to meet the code requirements of the particular application, either building construction or use in OEM equipment.
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    5. FRP Terminology

    Accelerator: A highly active oxidizing material suspended in a liquid carrier used to accelerate the decomposition of peroxide catalysts into highly reactive free radicals. These free radicals react readily with polymer and monomer molecules to cure a thermoset resin. Examples are diethylaniline, dimethylaniline, cobalt naphthanate, and cobalt octoate.

    Acetone: A cleaning fluid used to remove uncured plastic resin from brushes and clothing.

    Catalyst: A substance (usually a peroxide) which readily forms free-radicals. These free radicals react with polymer and monomer molecules to speed up the curing of thermoset resins. Catalyst content can vary from 0.2% to 2.0% with higher catalyst levels giving faster cure times. Examples are methyl ethyl ketone peroxide and benzoyl peroxide.

    Cure: The total crosslinking or polymerization of resin molecules which permanently alters the properties of the resin changing it from a liquid to a solid.

    Cure Time: The time required for the liquid resin to reach a cured or fully polymerized state after the catalyst has been added.

    Gelcoat: A thin surface coat, either colored or clear, of non-reinforced plastic resin. It is occasionally used for decorative purposes but also provides a protective coating for the underlying laminate.

    Hand Lay-Up: The oldest and simplest molding technique in which reinforcing materials and catalyzed resin are laid into or over a mold by hand. These materials are then compressed with a roller to eliminate entrapped air.

    Fiberglass Mat: A flat, coarse fabric composed of glass fibers. There are three types: chopped-strand mat, continuous strand mat, and surfacing veil.

    Release Agent: A lubricant, often wax, is used to prevent the adhesion of the molded part to the mold. An internal lubricant such as zinc stearate is used in high temperature molding to obtain release where wax would melt or be absorbed.

    Resin: A liquid plastic substance used as a matrix for glass fibers. It is cured by crosslinking.

    Spray-Up: Covers a number of techniques in which a spray gun is used to simultaneously deposit fiberglass and catalyzed resin on a mold.

    Styrene: A water-thin liquid monomer used to thin polyester resins and act as the crosslinking agent.

    Tack: The stickiness of an adhesive measurable as the force required to separate an adherent from it by viscous or plastic flow of the adhesion.

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6. Architectural Definitions

Abacus:The square slab crowning the capital and supporting the acrchitrave; in the Ionic and Corinthian it is given concave sides and its mouldings may be enriched.

Acanthus: The multi-foliated plant which in stylised form is used to decorate the capital of the Corinthian order.

Architrave: The lowest of the three main divisions of the entablature, often divided into a series of flat planes and separated from the frieze by a plain or moulded band.

Attic Base: A column base composed of an upper and lower torus, separated by a scocia with fillets, used with minor variations in all orders except the Tuscan.

Baluster: A diminutive column supporting the hand-rail to a staircase or landing, a series of balusters being termed a balustrade.

Base: The lowest element of a column or other architectural feature.

Capital: The uppermost element of the column, which visually gives support to the entablature.

Cornice: The uppermost, projecting element of the entablature. Its structural function is to throw water clear of the work beneath. These are frequently elaborated with ancillary mouldings as well as brackets, dentils, etc.

Cupola: A small dome, on a circular or polygonal base, roofing a turret and often finished with a finial or a lantern.

Dentils: Repetitive rectangular or tooth-like blocks worked on the bed moulding of a cornice.

Dome: A curved vault springing from a circular base, in section semi-circular (forming a hemisphere), segmental etc.

Dormer Window: A window projecting from a pitched roof and therefore provided with a roof and diminutive walls of its own.

Egg and Dart: A continuous decoration applied to the ovolo moulding, consisting of alternative egg-shapes and darts or arrow heads.

Entablature: The uppermost part of an order of architecture, supported by the column and consisting of architrave, frieze and cornice.

Entasis: The curved profile of a column.

Facade: The external elevation of a building, and especially its front elevation.

Fascia: A plain band with a vertical face.

Finial: The decorative termination of a pinnacle, mast, spire etc.

Fluting: Repeated concave channels that may be cut vertically into the face of a column in all orders except the Tuscan.

Frieze: The central element of the entablature, lying below the cornice and above the architrave.

Jambs: The sides of a door or window frame.

Keystone: The central wedge-shaped voussoir of an arch.

Parapet: That part of a wall extending above a secret gutter and concealing gutter and roof.

Pediment: A triangular or segmental section of wall above the cornice of an order, and forming the end wall of a pitched roof.

Pilaster: The rectangular shaft responding to a column, but attached to a wall.

Plinth: The lowest element of the column base, generally a plain square slab.

Portico: The columned loggia in front of the entrance to a building, frequently surmounted by a pediment.

Raking Cornice: The cornice along the sloping upper edge of a pediment.

Return: The side or face of a surface or moulding at right angles to the main face.

Scotia: A concave moulding approximating to two linked quadrants, the lower of greater radius than the upper, used to separate the tori of the attaic base and in balusters etc.

Shaft: The tapering cylinder of the column between base and capital.

Soffit: The underside of a projecting element such as a cornice or any flat underside.

Torus: A convex moulding of semi-circular profile, used especially in the bases of columns of all five orders.

Volute: The spiral forming the major element of the Ionic capital.
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7. Fiberglass History

The ancient Pheonicians and Egyptians were two civilizations that made glass, and both of them made glass into fibers, or made fiberglass. Many other civilizations had access to glass fibers. Of these, most made a small amount of the glass fiber at a time, and the fiber that they did make was very coarse. They used this fiber for decoration, unaware of the potential that lay within it.

In 1870, a man named John Player developed a process of mass producing glass strands with a steam jet process to make what was called mineral wool. This material was used as an effective insulation.

In 1880 Herman Hammesfahr was awarded a patent for a type of fiberglass cloth. This fiberglass cloth had silk interwoven with it. It was both durable and flame retardant.

The first glass fibers of the type that we know today as fiberglass were made through an accident, as many advancements in science have been. Dale Kleist, a young researcher for Corning Glass had been attempting to weld two glass blocks together to form an airtight seal. Unexpectedly, a jet of compressed air hit a stream of the molten glass and created a shower of glass fibers, showing Dale an easy method to create fiberglass.

In 1935, Corning Glass joined with Owens-Illinois, another company that had been experimenting with fiberglass, to develop the product further. In 1936, they patented the product "Fiberglas", with only 1 "s.", and then in 1938 the two companies merged to become Owens-Corning, which is still in existence today.

In the late 1930's to early 1940's they researched the idea of spinning the fibers into a cloth like material. In 1941, experiments progressed with heat cleaning and treating Fiberglas cloth. The heat treatment gave the cloth more flexibility, and proved to be key in making Fiberglas fibers suitable for use as reinforcements in plastic laminates.

In 1936, Carlton Ellis of DuPont was awarded a patent for polyester resin. Polyester resin is something that can be combined with Fiberglas to produce a composite.

The Germans furthered the manufacturing process of polyester resin by refining its curing process. During World War II British intelligence agents stole secrets for the resin from the Germans and turned them over to American firms. American Cyanamid produced the direct forerunner of today's polyester resin in 1942.

As early as 1942, Owens-Corning was producing fiberglass and polyester airplane parts for the war effort. These were low pressure plastic laminates made from the patented Fiberglass cloth impregnated with the resin.

And, today, almost every family in America has some sort of fiberglass item. Perhaps it is a shower stall, or a bathtub. Perhaps it is a car, or a boat. Or perhaps there are architectural fiberglass products such as columns, cornice or decorative items on your home. The list of uses for fiberglass composites may go on nearly forever.

The first structural use of fiberglass in aircraft construction was in the cockpit of the first military attempt at a helicopter feasible for combat.
In 1964 the H-301 Libelle ("Dragonfly") received the first German and first U.S. Type Certificate issued to an all-fiberglass aircraft. This particular application of fiberglass shows exactly how light the material is - this aircraft stays in the air a long time with no power of its own, just floating on air.

By 1944 Owens Corning had developed the first Fiberglas-reinforced plastic boat hull. In 1946 they made Fiberglas reinforced plastic fishing rods, serving trays and pleasure boats. In 1953 the company partnered with General Motors on the first production automobile with a body made entirely of Fiberglass-reinforced plastic, the Chevrolet Corvette.

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