Structural FRP Composites

by Craig Ballinger, Senior Engr.; Wilbur Smith Associates, Falls Church, VA,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1990, Vol. 60, Issue 7, Pg. 63-65

Document Type: Feature article


Fiber-reinforced plastics are only just being discovered by civil engineers. Long used in expensive military and aerospace applications, they are beginning to find their way into structures. Advantages of composites include high static and fatigue strength, weight up to five times lower than steel or concrete, resistance to chemicals and corrosion, and versatility in the fabrication process. Drawbacks include high cost of materials, low modulus of elasticity and possible plastic deformation under long-term loads. As research has refined and improved the manufacturing process and the materials themselves, costs have declined. E-glass, Kevlar and graphite are among the fibers costing little enough to be considered for civil engineering uses. Composites can be produced by three methods; layup, pultrusion and filament winding. The ability to produce composites with a variety and combination of materials and manufacturing processes allows the designer to create a material with nearly any combination of attributes. Composite parts may be able to replace assemblies of as many as 10 different parts, lowering installation costs. One factor inhibiting acceptance of composites for civil engineering applications is the lack of design criteria, standards, test methods and university courses on composite materials. This exacerbates the already-difficult task of creating designs with composites. Applications of composites have included breakway light poles, fiberglass rebars and post-tensioning tendons for concrete.

Subject Headings: Composite structures | Fiber reinforced polymer | Synthetic materials | Composite materials

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