You don’t finely trim a bonsai tree with a chainsaw, even if it’s fun to look at. Clearly, in many fields, choosing the right tool is a key success factor. In the composites industry, customers often ask for carbon fiber, when in fact glass fiber is a high-performance material better suited to their needs.
Carbon fiber is often hailed as the material of the future. When people think of carbon fiber, they probably imagine sports cars with doors that open vertically. For most composite producers, carbon fiber is the material that gets customers and their design engineers interested in composites before they realize that other composite materials like fiberglass are better suited for their projects. Sports cars, road bikes, and professional tennis rackets are all Made with extensive use of carbon fiber. This is because these applications require materials with low density and high ultimate tensile strength to maximize the weight advantage. However, this does not mean that carbon fiber is ideal for every application.
Raising the standard with fiberglass composites
In many cases, when customers are looking for carbon fiber, the material that best suits their needs is fiberglass. In fact, it can be said that fiberglass was the first high-performance material ever built, with concepts dating back to before World War II. Fiberglass has proven useful time and time again, from use in door or window frame profiles to telescopic poles, in automotive applications to railway joints and telecommunications radomes. If you think fiberglass is used exclusively for rowing boats, it might be time to revisit what it can really do.
Fiberglass has very good ultimate tensile strength, higher than most metals. It is an excellent insulator with a very low coefficient of thermal expansion and is resistant to corrosion and weathering. For example, the ITER fusion reactor developed by 35 partner countries is a tokamak-style fusion reactor that uses glass fiber composite pre-compressed rings (PCRs) to hold the reactors together.
The ITER fusion reactor uses PCR to absorb the deformation and fatigue of the magnets holding the plasma, which heats the plasma to 150.000.000°C. Glass fiber was chosen as the PCR reaction material due to its specific high-performance mechanical properties.
Fiberglass has stood the test of time. This material has not been replaced by a better alternative since its use in the early days of World War II. This is largely due to the mechanical properties of the material and its competitive cost and design flexibility.
Exel composites offers a range of pultrusion and pultrusion composite solutions. It produces many carbon fiber products as well as fiberglass and hybrid fibers, using both carbon fiber and glass fiber.
Determining the best material selection requires a clear understanding of the desired application and product specifications, and the company first works with customers to develop mutual understanding. Based on this understanding, composites suppliers should leverage their materials science expertise to design the ideal composite product for the end user. The discussion should include cost, especially since carbon fiber feedstock costs more than fiberglass.
Custom composites can range from specific fiber blends to impart certain properties, to managing fiber alignment and resin formulations. For example, fiberglass tubes may require additional reinforcement along one side of the geometry. In this case, carbon fiber can be strategically incorporated into the tube along with glass fiber at the time of manufacture to create a strong hybrid structure that both meets design requirements and is cost-optimized.
Whether you’re pruning a bonsai tree or upgrading your infrastructure, having the right tools is very important. While using a chainsaw or carbon fiber might seem more appealing, a low-key option can sometimes be a good choice for the task at hand.
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Post time: Aug-05-2022