Thursday, March 19, 2015

Industrial Applications For GFRP Composite

By Lelia Hall

The term, GFRP, stands for glass fiber reinforced polymer. It is what is known as a composite material, consisting as it does of a matrix of polymer that has been reinforced with fibers to give it strength. GFRP composite is used in many industries, including marine, automotive, construction, ballistic armor and aerospace.

Other types fiber reinforced polymer exist, mainly and consist mainly of carbon, basalt, or aramid. Aramid is a strong and heat-resistant synthetic fiber. Rarely, other materials are used such as wood, asbestos, or paper. The polymer part of an FRP is usually a vinylester, epoxy, or a polyester thermosetting plastic. The term thermosetting refers to the property of plastic where it is a liquid or soft plastic at low temperatures but hardens irreversibly when exposed to high termperatures.

GFRP materials are used where light weight and strength are necessary, as in the aerospace industry. The Aloha Airlines incident that occurred in April of 1988 is an example where a material failed. A flight attendant was killed when she was swept overboard by an explosive decompression that tore a section off roof of the plane on the short hop between Hilo, Hawaii, and Honolulu. The incident caused injury to 65 passengers and crew.

At sea, GFRPs were mostly confined to recreational water craft. It was not until three decades later that larger boats started to incorporate the material. They are particularly useful in this industry because they may be crafted into sometimes complicated configurations. They are lightweight, cheap, resistant to both impact and corrosion, and are vibration-damping.

Fiberglass is popular in the manufacture of sports cars for the same reason it is used in the maritime industry. It is lightweight and pliable. Used in the manufacture of fiberglass trucks, it increases payload capacity. Fiberglass also apparently fares better in a crash. Steel will transfer the vibrations, whereas they will remain localized in a fiberglass vehicle.

Ballistic armor, with a substantial content of GFRP, has a number of different uses in civilian as well as military sectors. Not only does it protect assets such as vehicles and buildings, it is also used to protect people. Unlike other materials, like steel armor, fiberglass may be re-engineered in the field using simple power tools that area readily available.

Ballistic armor is used to protect courtrooms. This material resists richochet, which makes buildings that much safer when they encounter gun play. On television, at least, somebody or other is always shooting up a courtroom. Shows like Law and Order, Medium, CSi Las Vegas, and Special Victims Unit spring immediately to mind.

One of the most deeply personal uses for FRPs is in bullet-proof vests used by members of the military and law enforcement. Of course, nothing is 100% impervious to ballistic weaponry. At the end of Series 2 of NCIS, Kate successfully intercepted a bullet meant for Jethro Gibb, only to be shot in the head by a sniper. Another popular meme on television concerning ballistic armor is stories about corruption and defective body armor being sold to the military at a huge profit.

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