Although few people know how to explain what fibreglass is, there are many who opt for this material when it comes to choosing one product or another. Its versatility, durability and impermeability have led many manufacturers to use it for everything from skis, surfboards and hockey sticks to awnings, façade cladding and car seats. There are as many types of fibreglass as there are everyday applications for the material.
Fibreglass takes its name from the English word fibreglass and refers to a bundle of glass filaments about the size of a sewing thread. These threads, interwoven together, take the form of fabrics, meshes or tubes that are characterised by their flexibility, durability and strength.
Although this component was first used in 1893, it was not until 1938 that its use became widespread. The engineer Russell Games Slayter was responsible for making it known and applying it to the construction industry.
Characteristics of fibreglass
The fact that fibreglass has become one of the most prized materials in the automotive, ICT and construction industries is no coincidence. Its peculiarities have made it a reliable and durable component.
Insulating: One of the main characteristics of fibreglass, and undoubtedly one of its most famous, is its resistance to heat. This material can withstand temperatures of up to 1648ºC for just over a minute. And not only that. It does not conduct electricity. A peculiarity that makes it ideal for the ICT industry.
Resistant: Fibreglass not only withstands high temperatures, but also high impacts and chemical erosion. This component is stronger than steel and is immune to most acids.
Waterproof: Unlike other materials, fibreglass does not corrode and is not permeable. This makes it particularly suitable for use in the marine, construction and automotive sectors.
Lightweight: another characteristic of fibreglass is its low weight. It is light and can be easily handled and moved, as well as used in products that require this peculiarity (surfboards, snowboards, hockey sticks, etc).
Versatile: made in different sizes, filaments and types, fibreglass offers great versatility to those who use it. A good example of this can be found in the different uses and applications of this material: automotive industry, ICT, construction, sports…
Economical: as well as being one of the cheapest materials on the market, it is also one of the materials with the lowest maintenance costs.
Types of fibreglass
Not all glass fibres are the same and not all have the same applications. Depending on its components, we can find different types of this material.
This is the type of glass fibre most commonly used in industries such as construction, automotive and sporting goods manufacturing. This is due, among other things, to its composition: silicon oxide, aluminium oxide, calcium oxide, magnesium oxide, boron oxide and alkalis. These components make it waterproof, solvent and tensile resistant.
Although all fibre types are tough, R-Type is a little tougher. It not only withstands extreme temperatures, but also long periods under water. This is why it is used to manufacture components for the shipping and aviation industries. It is made from silicon oxide, aluminium oxide, calcium oxide and magnesium oxide.
Composed mostly of silicon oxide and boron oxide, this type of glass fibre is notable for its high dielectric strength. A characteristic that makes it particularly suitable for the manufacture of ICT components and systems.
This type of glass fibre is mainly used in the construction industry. The reason? It is largely composed of zirconium oxide. A substance resistant to alkaline components, solvents and micro-organisms.
Made from silicon oxide, calcium oxide, magnesium oxide and boron oxide, Type C glass fibre is notable for its resistance to corrosion. This is why it is often used in the manufacture of pipes, bath tubs or water storage tanks.
Uses and applications of fibreglass
The uses and applications of fibreglass are as vast as its possibilities. And, although it is possible to find this component in practically any industry, these are some of the ones that make the most use of it.
The appearance of glass fibre has marked a turning point in the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector. This material is used to manufacture fibre optics, the conductor that has made it possible to transmit information at a speed never seen before. And it is not the only application of glass fibre in this sector: many computer components are made from this product.
The construction industry is another industry that uses fibreglass in its day-to-day work. This material is used as acoustic, electrical and thermal insulation and as cladding for facades and floors. It is also commonly used in decorative elements.
Fibreglass is indispensable in the automotive industry. It is used in the manufacture of small components such as cables and valves, as well as in the design of larger components such as gearboxes and engine blocks. And while all sectors have benefited from its emergence, the sports car industry has benefited the most from its invention. As a lightweight material with high resistance to corrosion and acids, it is perfect for racing cars.
Fibreglass has become a great ally of the aeronautical industry. So much so that 50% of aircraft parts are made of polyester reinforced with this material. It can be found in floors, seats, air ducts, cargo areas, cockpit parts and even propellers.
Because of its strength, low weight and impermeability, fibreglass is commonly found in products such as skis, surfboards and snowboards, baseball bats and hockey sticks.