Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymer – A Brief History

Kelly C. Gamble

Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymer is a fairly new material, but its numerous advantages have made it a very popular one. This article will present a brief history of FRP and describe the inadvertent discovery of the benefits of GFRP as a building material.

It’s believed that the very first product manufactured from Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymer was a boat hull, which was manufactured using a mold made of foam. This first project was completed during the 1930s, and the 1940s saw the construction of many fiber reinforced polymer products for the U.S. Air Force, the Navy, and the oil industry.

One of the most notable GFRP projects ever was completed during the 1950s. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology completed a design of a house that was crafted entirely from fiber reinforced polymer. The carefully-designed GFRP house began being constructed in 1956 in the Tomorrowland section of Disneyland. When visitors were welcomed into this house in 1957, they came in droves, and Disney’s FRP house was a popular attraction for a full decade.

In 1967, it was decided that the House of the Future would be destroyed. Amazingly, when the wrecking ball hit the futuristic GFRP home, it simply bounced off the structure. The fiberglass House of the Future had to be dismantled by hand. It was this event that fully highlighted the astonishing strength of fiber reinforced polymer and its potential as a building material.

Over the following decades, the automotive industry began using GFRP extensively, and FRP was also used to construct bridges and boats. After the failed House of the Future demolition, the building industry also began to employ fiberglass in a wider variety of construction applications. In fact, by 1994, the building industry had used almost 600 million tons of architectural fiberglass to craft a variety of buildings and elements. Its usefulness in repairing and renovating structures and elements crafted from an assortment of materials was also recognized.

Today, there are numerous architectural companies that specialize in the production of GFRP products. These businesses routinely use fiber reinforced polymers to produce watertight domes, detailed sculptures, and durable benches. Fiber reinforced polymer can also be finished to look like wood, quarried stone, and bronze, so individuals can enjoy the beauty of these more traditional materials without the associated maintenance, added weight, and higher price tag.

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