Custom Fiberglass Fabrications

Some projects are cookie-cutter, straight-forward. But maybe your job isn’t run-of-the mill, is it? We’re guessing the answer is nope if you are reading this article. An important facet of any project is selecting right manufacturer/design firm for your project, but it is critical when in the context of custom fiberglass fabrication. Selecting the right outfit for custom fiberglass fabrication will require instinct, acumen and above all the correct information. Oh yeah did we mention that capabilities are key? Having far-reaching precision capabilities is what governs custom fiberglass fabrications.

There is high demand in today’s global economy for fiberglass and composite products that can perform in unique and often stringent environments. For example, custom fiberglass fabrications are desired throughout the world for their ability to withstand highly corrosive and abrasive environments, prolonged exposure to heat, high strength requirements—or any other circumstance where conventional construction materials have failed or fallen short.

You may be asking why fiberglass as opposed to other materials of construction? Part of the answer to that question is that it bridges the gap, sometimes niche where other materials falter. But the other part of the answer lies in the functionality of fiberglass. Fiberglass materials, especially custom fabrications provide high-function; they deliver good dimensional stability or structure, and other properties such as light weight, strength, toughness, damage tolerance, fatigue, and fracture resistance. But the real stroke of genius of fiberglass lies in its one-of-kind ability to custom molded or configured into almost any shape and or size.

At Beetle, we know to create custom fiberglass fabrications that deliver the benefits that will accelerate your business. Beetle has the experience to identify potential obstacles before the custom fiberglass products are built in order to avoid delays, reduce cost, and ease overall construction of the finished project. Often unconventional solutions and outside-the-box problem solving are the driving force providing viable answers to complex problems—that’s precisely when fiberglass thrives.

Fiberglass has always been a unique answer to difficult challenges,—in many ways fiberglass has been the choice material to overcome design barriers and or augment efficiency or enhance the optimization within specific operating constraints. When looking for examples of custom fiberglass solutions and fabrication, one doesn’t have to look deeply to see examples in the aviation industry, aerospace, automotive, maritime, power generation, mining, oil and gas, chemical processing and water treatment—to name a few. Make no mistake what makes custom fiberglass fabrication a truly helpful, cost-effective solution is dependent upon the manufactures capabilities and capacity to get the job done.

Our capabilities are far-reaching. We offer CNC manufacturing, open molding: spray-up and lay- up, precision molding and tooling, filament winding, vacuum infusion, engineering, project management, and field services. Our knowledge of fiberglass materials and capabilities make us competitive; we are poised to seize custom fiberglass fabrication opportunities. Regardless of what you’re searching for; fiberglass pipe, ductwork, tanks, vessels, mist eliminators, panels, structural products, or premium custom fiberglass components—we have the technology and the know-how to execute and deliver. From small projects to large complex structures-we offer the gamut of precision composite products.

In short we provide turnkey solutions because everything is designed from start to finish with constructability in mind. We will take your design or prototype and combine it the knowledge of seasoned engineers, project managers, and a best in class manufacturing network to precisely build your custom FRP project and complete a successful launch of products to match your time targets.

Sulfuric Acid Storage

Custom fiberglass, with its low maintenance, high performance, heat tolerance, and corrosion resistance is a go-to material in many industries for a multitude of applications.  Sure, ‘custom fiberglass’ sounds expensive. The reality of any situation is always more subtle. When considering the entire range of benefits over time, high-quality custom fiberglass that can be formulated to withstand a variety of acids, bases, chlorides, solvents, and oxidizers and outlast other popular materials of construction such as high-priced nickel alloys is a very cost-effective material.

Fiberglass materials formulated from high quality epoxy vinyl ester resins will outperform stainless steel in chemically aggressive environments including Sulfuric Acid.  For example, in dilute form sulfuric acid is known to be extremely corrosive to carbon steel, yet properly formulated fiberglass can provide corrosion resistance.

With respect to operating environment (i.e. concentration, presence of water vapor, pressure, temperature etc.) many design consideration will need to be addressed. For example, while fiberglass is an exceptional material for many acids, concentrations greater than 75% sulfuric acid may not be suitable for all fiberglass materials—sulfuric acid at these concentrations and greater has an affinity for water—a relationship that has been shown to dehydrate or compromise some fiberglass formulations.  Situations involving high concentrations of sulfuric acid and the presence of water must be carefully analyzed.  Similarly, special attention should be provided where situations involve the diluting of acids.

Per contra, diluted sulfuric acid is very aggressive toward cast iron or steel tanks, but can be stored and handled very well in FRP composite equipment. As a general rule of thumb, FRP composite equipment is best suited for concentrations of 70% sulfuric acid and below. At 75% sulfuric acid, the maximum temperature allowed with vinyl ester resins is 100° to 120°F. As the concentration decreases, the allowable temperature limits increase.

Each job will require an understanding of the design elements that underpin a properly operating system. Although there will be unique challenges inherent to any job—a preferred type of FRP composite vessel for storing sulfuric acid is a non-insulated, vertical, above ground tank. Even underground tanks, with the ground acting as an insulator, may have excessive storage temperatures and additional considerations.

Literature such as Myers, Kytomaa and Smith (2007) described fiberglass materials, as well as, other materials of construction (e.g. steel alloys) as being susceptible to Environmental Stress Corrosion Cracking (ESCC) from exposure to acids. This type of literature is useful in many respects, for example, it provides a ‘lessoned learned’ understanding through case studies of how improperly formulated fiberglass resin matrixes and poorly designed fiberglass materials can lead to unintended results.

To be certain, fiberglass isn’t a panacea, and we understand its limitations and thresholds. When you leverage our design expertise, you’ll gain satisfaction knowing that your materials are optimized for performance. Intellectual or scholarly works also press the importance of improving our understanding of complex relationships—a necessity in operating systems combing a wide range design elements and operating conditions.

For fiberglass products to perform properly in the field, it takes more than just quality manufacturing. Excellent performance requires a high level of engineering and design skills coupled with project related expertise –the kind of expertise that only comes from years of experience. Beetles’ engineers have the experience, the skills, and the knowledge to help you with virtually any project related to fiberglass FRP applications.

Myers, T. J., Kytömaa, H. K., & Smith, T. R. (2007). Environmental stress-corrosion cracking of fiberglass: Lessons learned from failures in the chemical industry. Journal of hazardous materials, 142(3), 695-704.

Fiberglass Terminology

Like most technical and manufacturing industries, fiberglass has its own terminology. By and large you don’t need a large technical vocabulary to understand and interact with fiberglass reinforced polymer (FRP) literature, but there are some terms that will greatly increase your understanding.

Having a solid understanding of some of the most common fiberglass terminology is also helpful for more technical literature or when it comes time to discuss specific fiberglass solutions. Which is why we wanted to share with you a few of the terms we explain in our newest eBook Chemical Processing eBook: FRP Applications, Opportunities, and Solutions.

The Chemical Processing eBook is intended to be a good source of information regarding FRP and the chemical processing industry. While not exhaustive, the eBook is intended to be used as a supplemental tool and, as such, has a large section on common fiberglass terminology. Below you will find four of the most common and useful fiberglass terms to know.

Polymer– Polymers are substances whose molecules have high molar masses and are composed of a large number of repeating units. There are both naturally occurring and synthetic polymers. Composite materials are made up of a synthetic polymer matrix that is reinforced. Examples of synthetic polymers include epoxy, vinyl ester or polyester thermosetting plastic resins.

Reinforcement-Many different reinforcements may be used during the fabrication of FRP materials including polyester fibers, natural fibers, carbon fibers, arimid fibers, and glass fibers. The arrangement and combination of fiber reinforcements, along with resins, will in large part determine many of the characteristics of your final product. Examples of reinforcement types are surfacing mat, reinforced mat, chopped fibers, 13 woven fabrics, woven roving, and continuous strand roving.

Resin– Broadly defined, resins encompass a large class of synthetic products that have some of the physical properties of natural resins but are different chemically and are used chiefly in the manufacturing of plastics, fiberglass and other composites. Typically each resin has its own characteristic properties.

Corrosion Barrier– A resin rich veil layer that varies in nominal thickness depending on the service environment. Typically followed by random chopped strand mat or chopped strand roving; other subsequent reinforcements and scheduling may be utilized depending on the service environment or specifications. The high resin content of the corrosion barrier effectively shields the structural laminate from chemical attack. Inner layer and mat construction generally follow corrosion barriers for structural and mechanical purposes.

Download our free ebook Chemical Processing eBook: FRP Applications, Opportunities, and Solutions to learn more about FRP, fiberglass terminology, and corrosion.

The Cost of Corrosion

cost of corrosionThe effects of corrosion can be seen in industries across the globe. Every year the costs to repair, maintain, and replace equipment and infrastructure damaged by corrosion increase. In a 2009 study published by the World Corrosion Organization it was estimated that corrosion costs, worldwide, exceed 1.8 trillion dollars 1.

In another study conducted from 1999 to 2001 by CC Technologies Laboratories, Inc with support from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the National Association of Civil Engineers (NACE), it was revealed that the annual estimated direct cost of corrosion in the US was $276 billion dollars or approximately 3% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)2.

The hefty price tag of corrosion has led many, both domestically and internationally, to seek cost effective corrosion solutions. Luckily fiber reinforced polymers (FRP) offer a material solution that is cost effective for many industries and applications. Because of the corrosion resistant nature of FRP, they offer a short and long-term cost solution.

Specifically, FRP is ideal for corrosion control in the Chemical Processing Industry. The specific difficulties associate with transporting, handling, storing, and manufacturing corrosive chemicals are best addressed with FRP. The long life cycles, high strength-to-weight ratio, dimensional stability, and design flexibility that FRP offers has made it a successful building material in the Chemical Processing Industry for decades.

To learn more about the growing role of FRP in the fight against corrosion, download our free ebook Chemical Processing eBook: FRP Applications, Opportunities, and Solutions.