The Different Uses of Fiberglass in the Automotive Industry


Fiberglass in the Automotive Industry: Benefits of its Use

By Hristo Aleksiev

The automotive industry uses a tremendous number of materials to build cars and other vehicles, including iron, aluminum, plastic steel, glass, rubber, petroleum products, copper, steel and others. These parts are used to create everything from those small things such as dashboard needles and wiring to the big stuff, such as the engine block or the transmission gears.

These materials have evolved greatly over the decades, becoming more sophisticated, better built, and safer. They have changed as new automotive manufacturing technologies have emerged over the years, and they are used in increasingly innovative ways. And Fiberglass is a widely used material that became popular in the past few years.

One of the reasons for the relatively recent success of the use of fiberglass in the automotive industry is that it has several advantages compared to steel:: it is corrosion-free; it has significant chemical resistance and it is a lightweight material (three times less dense than steel, on average). These benefits make fiberglass suitable for automotive production, where all these advantages are very important.

Fiberglass in Cars

In the modern world, there are many vehicle parts currently being made of fiberglass, especially sports cars where weigh is crucial. Fiberglass is mainly used in the front and rear bumpers, hoods, doors, and casings. Another area where this material is used is the timing belts and V-belts, where glass strings are impregnated with rubber as reinforcement, due to the high tensile strength of the fiberglass.

Abrasion resistance is also another advantage of the fiberglass, which is why it is used for the production of brake pads and clutches. Clutch disks are reinforced with woven fiberglass to maintain the integrity of the composite material. Anti-abrasive components which are used frequently are Al2O3, SiC and rarely SiC2. These components are added to the liner, the first of the three layers of the composite. Usually, the liner consists of up to 85 % of resin, where the anti-abrasive chemicals are mixed, and reinforced with few layers of chop strand mat.

The high percentage of resin in the upper layer creates a smooth surface and makes it suitable for manufacturing hoods. This helps maintain low aerodynamic loses. Adding one layer of C-veil makes an even smoother surface. It is easy to add colors (they are special paints for that purpose) in the resin of the upper layer, and a UV-protection, to keep it for a long period.

Another example of the use of fiberglass in the automotive industry is wheel tires. In fact, fiberglass is used in both radial and bias-ply vehicle tire reinforcement: the glass cords are impregnated with up to 15-30 % resorcinol-formaldehyde-latex resin which coats the individual glass filaments.

Fiberglass was first used as a belt in a belted-bias tire with a nylon carcass. It reinforces the crown region of the tire which, in turn, increases the trade life by about 1.5 times compared to a conventional bias tire. Instead of the conventional bias-ply and steel reinforced belted-bias tire, the fiberglass reinforced tire provides a softer ride, greater resistance to damage, better stability, lower reinforcement cost and a good total performance in long distance driving.

All fiberglass products used for the reinforcement of rubber and elastomers are treated in resorcinol-formaldehyde-latex resin. 

Fiberglass in Trains and Trams

Another field of application of the fiberglass is the manufacturing of parts for trains and trams.

The almost entire outer body of some modern trains and city buses is made of composites. Most of the body of the high-speed trains consists of fiberglass. Due to its strength-to-weight ratio, and also smooth upper layer, fiberglass is very suitable for high-speed rail applications, where aerodynamics are utmost important. This material is used not only for the body but also the interior, shield of carriage equipment under the train etc.

Another advantage for this type of vehicles is the fire resistance of the material, which is achieved with additives mixed with the resins. Fire resistance is very important in case a crash occurs since the low spreading of the flames lets the passengers escape quickly.

Tell us about the benefits of fiberglass and their applications in other industries!

We also invite you to explore what ennomotive has to offer or simply join our community of engineers to continue learning about technology and participate in open innovation challenges.

About the author

Hristo Aleksiev is one of the finalists of the challenge 'Insulation System for Process Piping involving H2S'.

He graduated from the Technical University in Bulgaria and spent a year at the University of Nottingham, UK. His first job was in a large American-Australian company, working in the field of power engineering, mainly involved in power plants design, and piping systems. After that, he started working in a fiberglass production factory to this day.

fiberglass in the automotive industry 

Hristo Aleksiev