Flexible Strength Found in Fiberglass

By: James Monahan

What's common about a car window, a glass panel, solar cells, a basket ball backboard and an F-15 fighter jet cockpit? These are just some of the end products that can be made from a state of the material that is tougher ordinary glass but is as light as the stuff it was from.

Fiberglass, a composite material made from glass but is toughened like steel and hardened like rock. And although the process of heating and drawing glass has existed for thousands of years now, using glass or fiberglass for more applications other than car window or a mirror was more recent.

And thanks to a company known as Owens-Corring Fiberglass Corporation the use of fiberglass for textile applications was formally introduced in 1938, when the Owens and Corring decided to be partners.

Although the first commercial manufacturing of fiberglass had been two years before, in 1936, their efforts to promote it and label it as continuous filament glass fibers was what started it all for the fiberglass industry. Even today their company is still one of the major manufacturers of fiberglass in the market.

Fiberglass is formed in two ways or process. One of it is the direct melt process by which the sand is heated and then formed into fibers that will be molded together to form a fiberglass panel. This is the easier and less time consuming method of producing fiberglass.

The product of this process is already manufacturer grade. Which means it has met all the standards for it to be considered a Grade A product. The fiberglass yielded from this process is the normal basketball backboards, glass panels, and other end products that are for commercial consumer use.

Meanwhile, there is a specialized way of making fiberglass that takes more effort and time. In the marble remelt process, the molten material is sheared and rolled into marbles then placed in cans and shipped at a manufacturing facility to be remelted and formed into fibers.

The end products of the marble remelt process are more flexible than the fibers that are manufactured using direct melt process.

This is the case because the fiber obtained from the marble remelt process are often times used for specialized purposes or are deployed for government research or other specialized needs of non commercial and commercial entities. But what makes fiberglass a very sought after commodity now a days.

Well for one fiberglass has a great weight to surface ratio. That means that it could take considerable amounts of weight without breaking or cracking. Because of the process from which fiberglass is formed it developed the characteristic of flexibility.

This happens when the molten glass is spun into fibers, each fiber has the capacity to bend and flex to whatever the size or weight. And this has been proven as a matter of fact that the thinner the fibers are the easier for each fiber to bend. But even he toughest of materials has its Achilles heel.

The fiberglass fibers are still susceptible to cracking. And the larger the surface area of a fiberglass panel the more likly to crack. The surface area is a very key component in finding out the exact weight displacement that it can handle.

Besides that, humidity also plays a significant role in the deterioration of the fiberglass. Because moisture in the air are easily absorbed by the microscopic components of a fiberglass panel and the more moisture a panel absorbs the more likey the cracks at the microscopic will worsen.

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