Fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) composites are structural materials which have been successfully used in many industries for over 50 years. They consist of a fibre which carries the stress loading and a resin which transfers the stress between the fibres and protects them. There are a various generic types of fibres and resins available and these are selected based on the performance characteristics needed in the structural material.
The primary manufacturing processes are:
Pultruded where the fibres are fed through a mould and resin introduced to provide a profile section such as an I beam or channel. These pultruded sections have unidirectional fibres so can only accept loading in the longitudinal axis. The pultruded sections can then be bonded or bolted together to form a structural finished product.
Resin infusion where a mould is used in which dry fibre woven mats are positioned then a vacuum bag seals the fibre in the mould and the resin infuses the fibre under a vacuum to form the finished product. The woven fibre mats can use unidirectional and bidirectional fibre orientation for maximum structural efficiency.
At Lifespan Structures our manufacturing process uses the resin infusion technique with a mould. This allows us to arrange the fibres at different orientations to ensure maximum performance and if required we can alter the fibre and resin types to suit a particular application. We also use a foam core between the top mat and bottom mat for structural efficiency.
Where are FRP Composites used?
This industry has been using these materials for many years for the construction of civil and military aircraft. The new Boeing Dreamliner is a fully carbon fibre composite aircraft with both the wings and fuselage manufactured in composites.
The formula one racing cars utilise a fully carbon fibre monoque shell because it is light and much safer for the drivers. Most new vehicles on our roads have FRP composites for the manufacture of the bumpers, panels and even the complete body shell.
Most yacht hulls are constructed using FRP composites and have been for 50 years. The hulls are manufactured using moulds in one piece in a similar to manner to how we construct our bridge decks using an inner lightweight core for maximum structural efficiency.
The industry has been using FRP composites for 50 years as a cladding material and for ancillary equipment such as ladders and parapets. Bridge structures have been constructed using these materials in the last 25 years but only in the last ten years has there been a more consistent use of these materials utilising the technological developments in design and manufacturing from other industries.