Glass reinforced plastic has changed very little since its first use in the middle of the 20th century.
Leading GRP manufacturers all over the world (including one or two right here in the UK) have continually re imagined the ways in which the material can be put to use to answer a wide range of engineering and manufacturing requirements.
There is a reason for this extraordinary versatility.
GRP combines three of the most sought after engineering properties of all - light weight, malleability and strength. The plastic part of glass reinforced plastic makes it both light and extremely easy to shape - while the glass fibres incorporated into the plastic (hence the term 'fibreglass') make any object moulded from GRO extremely strong for its weight. The glass fibres are able to absorb and prevent stresses from multiple angles and felt along multiple planes, because they are mixed haphazardly into the plastic. That means there is always a selection of the fibres lying in the right direction for absorbing stress, no matter where it comes from.
The versatility of glass reinforced plastic makes it ideal for carrying out repairs to existing site facilities or components. GRP is also commonly used to modify existing site and plant equipment, typically to add a strong weather or heat proof coating to other materials.
The material is routinely used in the manufacture of train carriages and buses. Its easy moulding and high degree of strength makes it ideal as a base for seats and luggage racks. GRP is also used to make body shells for certain sports cars or concept vehicles.
GRP also has applications in the chemical and industrial sectors, where the safe containment of potentially hazardous materials can be a primary consideration. One of the first British manufacturers of glass reinforced plastic mouldings was instrumental in the discovery that GRP can be combined with other types of plastic to produce highly specific containment facilities for a variety of toxic, corrosive or heat producing compounds. The plastic is combined with heat reflective or otherwise chemically inert materials, which allow large, strong containers to be produced, capable of holding otherwise dangerous substances within easy reach of the facilities that need them. Fire fighting foam, for example, is commonly stored in GRP moulded containers. Sulphuric acid is also stored in GRP containers, where the plastic has been combined with the right resins.
It is perhaps the amenability of glass reinforced plastic to combination with other resins and plastics that has earned it its pride of place amongst the pantheon of industrial materials. To be able to hold practically any shape, and to present such immense strength for its weight, is a sterling quality in and of itself. To do the same things and to be able to incorporate the qualities and properties of other useful materials, easily and reliably, makes GRP a member of the royal family of industrial materials.