THE MAKING OF FIBREGLASS

how fibreglass is made

It was in the midst of the first industrial revolution that humanity created its first form of fibreglass, thanks to an accidental discovery made by a researcher at Owens-Illinois. This led to the patenting of the product under Owens Corning and the name: fibreglas with one "s". Through advances in technology and compounds, we now use a modern process to shape and mold fibreglass into a variety of products. The versatility that the material provides has expanded its uses far beyond what it was originally intended for; namely, insulation. Today, fibreglass has become commonplace in buildings across all industries from automotive to aerospace.

The making of fibreglass

The production of fibreglass dates back to the Renaissance. During this period, it was primarily used as a decorative material for artworks; however, its use has since transcended into numerous industries. Today, fibreglass is created from glass fibres – which can be categorized based on their geometry as either continuous fibres (e.g. cotton or wool) or discontinuous fibres. With advancements in technology and research, this unique material is being increasingly utilized across a range of sectors to enhance production speed and increase product durability.

1. Raw Materials

When creating high-quality fibreglass, it is essential to ensure the right ingredients are used in precise amounts. The base ingredients of silica sand, limestone, and soda ash must be included, and other materials such as calcined alumina, borax, feldspar, nepheline syenite, magnesite, and kaolin clay can be added to improve specific properties of the fibreglass. Each ingredient is carefully weighed and then combined in a batch to form the material that will become fibreglass. It is this process of precise measuring and mixing that results in strong and reliable fibreglass for a range of applications.

2. Melting

The precise nature of glass production requires careful and controlled temperatures to achieve desired results. In order to produce a smooth and even flow of glass, the mixed batch is fed into a furnace and melted at an impressive 2500°F (1371°C). This temperature far surpasses the required temperatures to form other types of glass which further indicates the precision and level of craftsmanship that goes into each glass production. The processes involved in producing this smooth and consistent flow require great care, and it is all worth it in the end when consumers can enjoy their desired glass products.

3. Fibre Forming

The precise nature of glass production requires careful and controlled temperatures to achieve desired results. In order to produce a smooth and even flow of glass, the mixed batch is fed into a furnace and melted at an impressive 2500°F (1371°C). This temperature far surpasses the required temperatures to form other types of glass which further indicates the precision and level of craftsmanship that goes into each glass production. The processes involved in producing this smooth and consistent flow require great care, and it is all worth it in the end when consumers can enjoy their desired glass products.

4. Continous

After passing through the bushing, the glass is collected in a high speed winder which spins at an incredible two miles per minute. The tension created produces filaments that are just a fraction of the size of the holes in the bushing. A chemical is added to act as a binder which helps keep the fibres from breaking during further processing. Finally, glass filaments are wound around tubes so they can be subsequently twisted and plied into yarn. This combined process results in strong and durable glass yarn, giving it unique applications in various industries.

5. Staple Fibre

The staple fibre forming process is intricate and sophisticated. The effectiveness of this process relies on many precision measures. As the molten glass leaves the bushing, jets of cold air are applied to rapidly cool and break the filaments into various lengths. This is key as it forms a connecting thread between both the speed and quality of the result. Then, these filaments fall through a spray of lubricant into a revolving drum, which collects them in what soon forms a web from which it can be pulled to form loosely assembled fibres ready for subsequent processing into yarn. Thanks to its efficient process, pharmaceuticals, engineering polymers, and many other products can use staple fibre forming systems to effortlessly acquire the output needed for required industries.

6. Chopped Fibre

The chopping process is an essential part of creating quality mats and fabrics. Continuous fibres are chopped into shorter lengths to create the desired products and then mounted onto bobbins or creels before being pulled through a machine for further cutting. The newly chopped fibres are then formed into mats, with a binder added to secure the fibres together before it is cured in an oven and rolled out into mats. This process ensures that the necessary uniformity within materials can be accomplished while also providing perfectly shaped and sized pieces.

7. Glass Wool

Developed in the 1930s, glass wool is a versatile building material with many properties, including sound absorption and fire protection. The material is created through a rotary or spinner process, where molten glass flows from a cylindrical container with small holes into the air or hot gas. As the stream of glass exits the container and is exposed to air or gas, it interlaces to form an insulated mass that is durable yet breathable. During this filament process, binders are added to hold the fibres together while coatings may be included to offer additional protection. In this way, the rotary process creates glass wool that offers applications in the insulation of commercial and residential buildings as well as noise control products.

8. Protective Coatings

The application of a binder during the manufacturing process is an essential step that can help reduce abrasion due to fiber movement. Depending on the particular needs of the production, this binder may include a lubricant or anti-static compound that serves as a corrosion inhibitor and stabilizer. A coupling agent can also be applied if necessary, which is particularly beneficial when fiberglass is used to reinforce plastics. Ultimately, these various components play important roles in creating stronger and more durable products.

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