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Thanks to modern manufacturing processes, ordinary materials can now be transformed into extraordinary design elements—high-end products that provide a virtually unlimited palette of custom accents for today’s contemporary interior environments. Panels made of fiber-reinforced plastic, or FRP, are great examples.
Long known for its durability and performance, FRP’s substrate and surfacing applications make it the ideal combination of beauty and brawn. It has proven to be as alluring as it is strong in kitchens, restrooms, dining rooms, offices, classrooms, healthcare environments, hallways, recreational areas and other multipurpose spaces.
An added benefit is that using FRP doesn’t require breaking the bank. It is an affordable alternative that can pay long-term dividends in terms of color, finish, style and value.
what is frp?
FRP is a composite material comprised of a plastic matrix strengthened and reinforced with fiberglass. Using a mold to create the finished product, fiberglass is generally thermoset with a combination of plastic or epoxy resins, organic fillers and fiberglass reinforcements engineered to achieve a desired performance. The resin—usually either polyester, vinyl ester or phenolic resin—is what bonds the fibers together. Once this bond has occurred, the FRP does not soften, melt or flow when heated. However, if the bonding occurs within a mold, the shape of the mold will be formed, and cannot be reformed. Molds can be designed in any shape or size, which means FRP products can be made in virtually any shape and size as well.
The resin also serves to protect against damage, and is generally chemical and fire resistant. The amount of resin required in the manufacturing of FRP is reduced by the use of “filler materials,” which can be cheaper than resin while still providing smoothness and crack resistance.
Additives also can be introduced to further increase the material’s durability, to make it easier to process or adapt the FRP for specific uses, or to enhance the material’s resistance to ultraviolet radiation.
Because FRP is also lightweight, it often requires less labor for installation and lighter supporting structures or substrates. Consequently, the cost of construction and installation is reduced, while the speed is increased.
When cured, FRP holds its shape because of the resin, while the fiberglass delivers strength and stiffness. It is also important to note that the resin has additional corrosion- and heat-resistant properties not found in any type of metal products. This technology has led to increased durability and strength in corrosive environments and industrial applications.
Quality assurance is regulated by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM), an internationally recognized developer of voluntary consensus standards. The ASTM standard divides FRP into several types and grades, depending on the material’s weather resistance and transparency,
and requires testing for water absorption, tensile strength, linear thermal expansion and flexural strength.
beyond plain jane
Durable doesn’t have to mean dull.
FRP panels can be textured, smooth or translucent, and are available in a variety of thicknesses. Designers can choose from hundreds of colors or fusion-printed designs and images. This process involves “infusing” color, digital designs or imagery into a proprietary coating applied to the base materials. Because it begins as a computer file, the infused design can be just about anything, including any number of stock patterns and images. The colors in stock images may be altered and customized for maximum impact. FRP panels can also be made to simulate the look of natural materials such as tile, sandstone, linen, wood and pebble-embossed surfaces—yet their performance often surpasses many of these more traditional materials.
The infusion process literally transfers and embeds the colors and images into the coating bonded to the substrate, leaving all of the original properties of the substrate. No further treatment or coating is required; the decorative layer is the final surface.
On translucent panels, the image is applied to the back of the panel, creating an incredibly durable carrier for the design. This is often specified for spaces where a high degree of optical depth is desired. Fusion-imaged translucent FRP panels are also ideal for backlit applications.
It’s important to note that fusion imaging doesn’t alter the inherent properties of FRP panels, so they remain ideal choices for sanitary applications that call for moisture proofing and impact resistance, such as food preparation areas, bathrooms and other wet environments.