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Fiberglass bashing ( a bit long - sorry)


Hello all.  I just had to get my .03 cents in here.  I have to first say that
I don't necessarily disagree with many of the specific comments made about
fiberglass for structural parts.  I do however disagree with the
generalization that is kind of forming the fiberglass parts are no good.

First of all the fiberglass is only the reinforcement in the composite
("fiberglass" has come to be a generic term for glass reinforced plastics,
much like "bondo" is for any body filler)  The composite material is actually
made up of glass fibers and usually polyester resin.  Some composites have
pigments and other fillers in them as well.  Higher performance composites use
vinylester and epoxy resins instead of polyester.

I have built entire automobile body structures (not just the fenders, hood,
and stuff) out of fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) composites while working
at Ford.  These prototypes have no steel reinforcements or rails between the
wheels, left to right or front to back.  These materials, if used and designed
correctly, can be very structural.  They also offer a bunch of benefits over
steel, like better corrosion protection (no rust), lighter weight (25%),
better vibrational characteristics, and better overall vehicle stiffness if
done right.  They also offer more design flexibility and much lower tooling
(investment) costs compared to steel.  You don't see more composites in cars
today because the raw material costs are higher than steel and the processing
times are considerably longer (1-20 minutes vs. 10 seconds).

As for the parts (floor pans in particular) offered by the aftermarket
industry for VWs, I have to agree that these parts are not well designed or
built for structural applications.  I actually purchased a section of
composite(fiberglass) floorpan from Fiber Innovations for work.  The quality
of the part was not very good.  I wrote a more detailed message 6-8 months ago
describing my objections to this part and the supplied installation procedure.
I can forward it to anyone that is interested when I get back to work on
Monday.

I think that for non-structural parts (fenders mostly), the composite parts
out there are fine (from a performance standpoint) even if the quality level
is not so hot and the parts will require a bunch of fitting and finishing.

OK, I will get off my soapbox for now....I would be happy to discuss the use
of composites in more detail if anyone has specific questions.  It is what I
earn my living doing and a favorite topic for me.  Watch this space for future
updates on the use of composites in my own 71 Fastback.

later,
John Jaranson
71 Fastback
Defender of Composites (Fiberglass)  :-)


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