Although fiberglass composite is the preferred material for marine applications today, that hasn’t always been the case. Prior to the 1950s, boats were typically constructed out of materials like steel and wood. Boat builders and material manufacturers were working on fiberglass boats as early as the 1930s, but it wasn’t until mid-century when the “wonder” material finally took off as the go-to marine construction choice.
Why is Glass Fiber So Well-Suited for Marine Applications?
The chemical composition of fiberglass (or “GRP,” glass-reinforced plastics) was perfected in the 1950s for applications requiring strength and watertight construction. Over the next few decades, improvements were made on tangential products including epoxies, resins, adhesives, and even carbon accessories. Glass fiber – typically reinforced with plastic resins – is ideally suited for marine applications because it is lightweight, inexpensive, and has high tensile strength and water insolubility. Many of the same qualities that make fiberglass desirable in the greater construction industry make it a perfect choice for boating.
How Fiberglass is Used in the Marine Industry
Glass fibers in various forms are used today in commercial boat building. Fiberglass is typically used to construct the hull of marine craft, although it’s also used in applications ranging from boat benches to cabins to steering wheels. Rovings are often woven into mats which form a solid layer, suitable for coating with high-strength resin. Fiberglass cloth, pre-preg reinforcements, and chopped-strand mats are all commonly seen in modern day boats. Glass fiber applications like these provide optimal levels of flexibility and also the capability to layer for strength, a highly sought after quality in boatbuilding. Even fiberglass tape is sold commercially to boat owners looking for a quick, reliable fix to simple craft issues.
The Future of Fiberglass in Boating
Fiberglass has come a long way. Although most fiberglass boats are currently made in an open mold, the technique of “vacuum infusion” is growing in popularity. It requires more technical precision but provides additional strength to the vessel. In the future, boating experts suspect there will be a greater proportion of glass to fiberglass (i.e. less resin used) in boats which may drastically alter the aesthetic qualities of common vessels.
B&W Fiberglass has dozens of partners in the marine industry. From boatbuilding to ocean-bound energy production facilities, our glass fiber technology satisfies a wide array of needs in the marine sector. Would you like more information on B&W Fiberglass’ capabilities? Reach out to our team today.