Steel, aluminum, and timber have long been the go-to materials when it comes to building, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything we can do to improve on these classic building materials.
But fiber reinforced plastic?
When you think of plastic water bottles, clothing hangers, and children’s toys, durability isn’t likely to come to mind. Because plastic has only very recently come on the scene as a sturdy building material, many people still shy away from using it in their projects. You shouldn’t. That’s because today’s plastic contains a wide variety of fillers that make it stronger, stiffer, and denser, allowing it to be used in a wide variety of unexpected ways.
Fiber reinforced plastic is one of the newest plastics that is growing in popularity. It can be found in construction projects, at waste water treatment plants, and even theme parks. The question is, why fiber reinforced plastic and not steel, aluminum, or timber?
There are many benefits of using fiber reinforced plastic over traditional materials.
Easy fabrication and design
When it comes to design, it doesn’t get any easier than fiber reinforced plastic. It can be field-fabricated using carpenter’s tools with carbon or diamond tip blades without the need for any torching or welding. Because it’s lightweight, it’s extremely easy to transport and install.
Resilience and stiffness
Fiberglass has a hard finish and can be tailored to provide greater toughness or more resilience, depending on your needs. It’s also up to 3.3 times more rigid than timber, preventing it from permanently deforming under a working load.
Fiber reinforced plastic costs more initially than other building products, like stainless steel and wood, but you’ll spend less over its lifetime. It’s more affordable to install, and maintenance costs are lower.
Traditional materials can easily become deformed, or even break, under impact and stress. This isn’t the case with fiberglass.
The fiberglass content in reinforced plastic is able to distribute an impact load across the entire surface of the plastic, preventing damage. Reinforced plastic can even provide impact resistance in subzero temperatures.
Corrosion, rot, and insect resistance
It is common for steel and aluminum to be compromised due to oxidation and corrosion. In order to prevent this kind of damage, metal materials must be painted or galvanized. Wood warps, rots, and decays when exposed to moisture and chemicals, in addition to being highly susceptible to insects. Even concrete becomes damaged rather quickly when exposed to water and moisture.
Fiber reinforced plastic is a super material when it comes to corrosion, rot, and insect resistance. It is able to resist many different chemicals, and it isn’t compromised by moisture, even when it’s immersed in water. It repels insect damage too. Because of these amazing features, fiber reinforced plastic is often used as a protective covering on surfaces in plants where chemical spillages aren’t uncommon.
Nothing could be stronger than steel, right? Believe it or not, but steel isn’t necessarily the strongest building material. There are other materials that offer much better flexural strength, including fiber reinforced plastic. It just wouldn’t sound right if we renamed Superman as Fiber Reinforced Plastic Man.
The ultimate flexural strength of fiber reinforced plastic is LW-30,000 psi and CW-10,000 psi. Compression strength is LW-30,000 psi and CW-15,000 psi. It offers greater flexural strength than timber and often offers greater horizontal strength than iron, steel and aluminum, pound-for-pound.
Heavy materials can be extremely difficult to manage on the job site. Fiber reinforced plastic is only 2/3 the weight of aluminum, and a full 1/4 the weight of steel, making it easier to lift. Its lower weight also makes it much easier to maintain, and it reduces installation costs.
Thermal and electrical conductivity
Steel and aluminum are metals, which means they conduct heat. Fiberglass reinforced plastic doesn’t. It is a good insulator, it has a low thermal conductivity, and it’s able to maintain a constant temperature. Because it is able to resist both heat and corrosion, it is often used in humid, swampy conditions.
Not only does fiber reinforced plastic remain cool to the touch, it’s also non-conductive. Steel and aluminum must be grounded in order to control electrical conductivity. Fiber reinforced plastic has a high dielectric capability.
If appearances are important, fiber reinforced plastic is a good choice. That’s because color can be molded into the part during production, instead of needing to be applied later. Traditional building materials require various paints, stains, and coatings in order to change their appearance, and that appearance will need to be maintained.
Sold on the idea of fiber reinforced plastic, but not sure how you can make it work for your next project? Give us a call! We offer a wide range of plastic fasteners and components that will help make sure your next project is a success.