More than thirty years ago American author and minister, Robert Fulghum, published a collection of essays that shot to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It was called “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” As 2020 disappears in our rear view mirror, some reflection from a marketing perspective makes me think of a similar analogy. One of the comments I’ve heard several times this year reminds me of a sports coach who said, “Don’t forget the basics.”
As a technical sales person, I find myself anxious to dive into the details of our products and because they are made with FRP composites, there is a lot to talk about. Mainly the technology that makes our products special and provides our customers with valuable advantages. It’s important though, to remember [as I make a note to myself] that spending time on the basics is still the best way to educate new customers about why FRP makes sense for their project. It’s also the most effective way to continue to expose the industry to FRP applications and expand its commercial acceptance. The travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19 have exacerbated this oversight by blocking the traditional path to reach new audiences through tradeshows, networking events, and presentations at engineering and agency offices. One way to address this gap is to remember those basics by getting back to some of our initial FAQs.
What is FRP?
Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) is a composite technology that is strong, lightweight, corrosion-resistant and maintenance-free.
What are the benefits of using FRP?
- Lightweight—FRP materials are 25% the density of steel. FRP decking is 10% to 20% the weight of reinforced concrete decking, which translates to easy transportation and rapid install.
- Corrosion-resistant—FRP will not degrade because of factors such as snow, ice, salt, or chemicals.
- Maintenance free—FRP products have a service life of roughly 75 years, during which they require no maintenance. In contrast, reinforced concrete surfaces generally begin to degrade after 15 to 20 years, potentially sooner exposed to heavy chemicals or weather.
- Cost-effective—Due to long service life and zero maintenance costs, FRP products end up costing less than traditional materials.
- Design Flexibility—FRP is an engineered material so the structural properties can be optimized to align with the highest loads.
Do FRP decks have UV protection?
The resins, coatings, and wear surface overlays that we utilize are extremely resistant to UV rays. These materials are designed specifically for direct sunlight exposure.
What are the typical reinforcements?
The fiber reinforcements provide the strength and stiffness to the composite material. Fiberglass is the most common reinforcement since it has high strength and good stiffness at a reasonable cost. When higher stiffness is needed for the best weight savings, carbon fiber is used even though it costs more.
How are FRP parts made?
There are many processes for manufacturing FRP parts. Deciding the right process takes many factors into consideration: size, shape, quantity, production rate, type of fiber and resin, cosmetics, tolerances and cost.
The Vacuum Infusion Process uses vacuum pressure to drive resin into a laminate. Materials are laid dry into the mold and the vacuum is applied. Once a strong vacuum is achieved, resin is pushed by atmospheric pressure into the fiber reinforcements via carefully placed tubing and infusion medium. Vacuum infusion greatly improves the fiber-to-resin ratio, and results in a strong, light product. The VIP process is the most cost-effective molding technique for large parts having low to medium quantities.
Pultrusion is a continuous low pressured molding process using fiber reinforcements and thermosetting resins matrices. The fiberglass reinforcements are drawn through a resin bath or injected with resin in which all fibers are thoroughly impregnated with the liquid resin system. The wet-out fiber is formed to the desired geometric shape and pulled into a heated steel die. Once inside the die, the resin cure is initiated by controlling at precise elevated temperatures. The composite laminate solidifies in the exact cavity shape of the die, as it is continuously "pulled" by the Pultrusion machine, thus getting the name - Pultrusion.