The Advantages of fibre-reinforced thermoplastics

January 30, 2015
The Advantages of fibre-reinforced thermoplastics

There’s an impressive industry based solely on the properties of fibre-reinforced plastics. The demand for the product comes from the need to circumnavigate our globe without incurring costly freight expenses. We live in a global economy after all, a world where products are shipped everyday and expected to arrive in one piece. Fibre-reinforcement cushions these products while they voyage across international waters, stubbornly resisting impact damage when that voyage arrives at a port. There are cranes to navigate, fuel surcharges to estimate, human error to deal with, and all of these obstacles are mitigated thanks to FRP, fibre-reinforced plastic.

Thermoplastics meshes with the properties of fibre-reinforcement to usher in the best of both worlds. The plastic is easy to mould into complex shapes, thus the secure storage of fragile parts is guaranteed during a rough trip. The fibres can adopt a long form or a shorter length to gift packaging with enhanced properties. Recently, it’s long fibre-reinforced composites that are winning their place in the structural tug-of-war between the two freight commodity plastics. Both thermoplastic variants offer lightweight carriage, a ride that promotes durable transport without impact damage. They also reject aging. Wood will rot and paper lacks tensile strength, but these plastics never age.

At some point we need to quantify where the long-fiber variant trumps its shorter cousin. Just as with any other superior engineering plastic, the advantages come from versatility and the ability to tailor the long form for a specific purpose. Factors that decide the tailoring properties include the orientation of the fibre in relation to the stored package, the particular thermoplastic used in the construction of the fibres, and the diameter of the actual fibres. Additional factors may include hybrid versions, reinforced variants that blend cellulose fibres or carbon fibres to reduce abrasive forces and other characteristics of the material.

In brief, fibre-reinforced thermoplastic applications have opted for the short form in the past, fibres that added strength to the thermoplastic resin when the materials were introduced back in the 1960s. This model of operation is still favoured in packaging today due to the pervading influence of the format, but long-fibre changes are penetrating the market thanks to the tailoring aspect of the moulding material. Regardless of which type is used, the main advantage of the material is that it is lightweight and deceptively strong. Nylon-6 and Nylon-66 are popular choices in the engineering plastics industry for fabricating these composites, with the LFT variants available in a number of combinations expressed as percentage of long glass fibre. For example, a twenty percent long glass composite made from Nylon-6 will have different properties from the fifty percent alternative as far as stiffness and durability are concerned.