Fibreglass is an excellent example of a relatively modern composite material (Invented in 1938 by Russel Games). In industry it is often referred to as Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP).
GRP is composed of strands of glass. Each individual glass fibre is very fine with a small diameter, and they are woven to form a flexible fabric. The fabric is normally placed in a mould, for instance a mould for a canoe and polyester resin is added, followed by a catalyst (to speed up the reaction). The process is repeated so that there are many layers of fibre glass and resin and allowed to dry/cure. The resulting material is strong and light. Glass Reinforced Plastic can be sanded for a smooth finish and painted.
Three samples of different weaves of fibreglass are seen below. The pattern of weave determines the strength and weight of the Glass Reinforced Plastic, after resin has been added. Different weaves have been developed for different practical applications.
Glass reinforced plastic is lightweight and has good thermal insulation properties. It has a high strength to weight ratio, making it useful for the production of products such as water tanks, surfboards, canoes, small boat hulls and similar products. The new European fighter plane, called ‘Eurofighter’, has an airframe which includes 12% glass reinforced plastic.