Glass fibres have been produced for centuries. In fact, the ancient Egyptians were able to produce glass and transform it into fibres. The issue however, was that they could only make a small amount at a time and that the produced fibre was very coarse.
The following information shows the timeline in moving from the initial small volume and coarse glass fibre to the composite material we know today.
John Player developed a process of mass producing glass strands via a steam jet process. The produced material was called mineral wool and entrapped a great amount of gas in the fibres, making it an effective insulator especially at high temperatures.
A patent was awarded to Herman Hammesfahr for a type of fibreglass cloth that contained interwoven silk.
The Glass fibres that we know of today were accidentally created by Russell Games Slayter when he was welding two glass blocks together, unexpectedly a jet of compressed air hit a stream of the molten glass and created and shower of glass fibres. This discovery allowed them to determine how to mass produce glass strands.
The company Owens-Corning had been experimenting with fibreglass in order to develop the product further and patented the product “fibreglas” (with 1 ‘s’). In the same year, an American inventor and a pioneer in the field of organic chemistry, Carleton Ellis, patented a polyester resin which could be combined with Fibreglas to produce a type of composite material.
Owens-Corning researched the idea of spinning the glass fibres into a cloth like material. The experiments progressed to heat cleaning and treating the cloth which resulted in the cloth becoming more flexible.
American company Cyanamid created the initial form of a modern polyester resin, ‘Cyanamid’s resin’ which used Peroxide curing systems and can be classified as the origin of the GRP manufactured today.
At this point, the combination of fibreglass and resin meant that the gas content was replaced by plastic. This change reduced the insulation properties, however, it showed great strength and promise as a structural and building material.
Owens-Corning produced low pressure plastic laminates for aeroplanes as part of the war effort which were made from the patented fibreglass cloth and impregnated with the resin.
From this point, the process of manufacturing fibreglass or Glass Reinforced Plastic has been developed even more. It is now used within the majority of industries to the point where almost everyone will have something that has been produced in GRP. To view some of the products that you may not know were made from GRP, check out this post.