Key Inventors GRP (Glass-Reinforced Plastic) – Pioneers
key inventors grp glass-reinforced plastic

The story of GRP begins with a look at CompositesWorld’s review. It highlights the early pioneers’ achievements. The 1930s were crucial in the development of modern composites. Owens-Illinois and Corning Glass made major strides forward. Their work, plus the iconic “Fiberglas” by Owen-Corning, built the foundations of the GRP field.

Owens-Corning’s invention of Fiberglas and DuPont’s creations changed the game. DuPont developed the first polyamide thermoplastic polymer. They also patented unsaturated polyester resins (UPR). These steps were vital in the early success of composite materials.

The 1930s also witnessed essential contributions from P. Castan and S. Greenlee. They patented epoxy resins. These inventions were crucial for producing composite materials. Together, these GRP inventors marked the start of an innovative era in composites.

Key Takeaways

  • The 1930s played a crucial role in the inception of modern composites.
  • Owens-Illinois and Corning Glass spearheaded early developments in GRP.
  • Owen-Corning’s “Fiberglas” became a cornerstone of the GRP industry.
  • DuPont’s contributions, including polyamide thermoplastic polymers and UPR, were pivotal.
  • Patents for epoxy resins by P. Castan and S. Greenlee were significant milestones.

The Origin of Glass-Reinforced Plastic

The story of fiberglass starts long ago, with the Mesopotamians in 3400 B.C., who were among the earliest to use composite materials. But, the journey of modern glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) kicked off in the 1930s. It was a time when Owens-Illinois and Corning Glass joined forces, leading to major leaps in GRP development.

This collaboration sparked the birth of Owens-Corning. In the 1930s, they launched “Fiberglas,” a milestone in GRP history. Their innovation made fiberglass affordable, triggering industry growth. This marked a huge jump from early experiments to mass production, fueled by advances in synthetic polymers, like polyester resins and polyamides.

In the 1940s, fiberglass found a new role in radar domes and electronic devices, thanks to its invisibility to radio waves. By 1947, a car made entirely of composite material was prototyped. This led to the 1953 Corvette, showcasing GRP’s potential in cars.

The 1950s brought breakthroughs like pultrusion, vacuum bag molding, and filament winding to the GRP industry. These methods improved how GRP was made and widened its use. The 1960s introduced carbon fibre, changing the game for thermoset parts with unprecedented strength and lightness.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the car industry became the main user of composite materials, surpassing marine uses. This change underscored GRP’s growing importance in making and building a variety of things.

Leo Baekeland and the Invention of Bakelite

In 1907, Leo Baekeland made a discovery that changed materials science forever. He invented Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic. This was a major step forward in making things with synthetic materials.

The Initial Discoveries

In 1905, Baekeland was trying to find a substitute for shellac. He mixed phenol and formaldehyde. This experiment led to creating Bakelite, the first plastic not based on anything in nature.

Commercial Applications and Breakthroughs

By 1909, everyone was talking about Bakelite because it could be used in many ways. The Bakelite Corporation called it “The Material of a Thousand Uses.” Making products with Bakelite was quicker and cheaper than using celluloid.

Leo Baekeland got more than 400 patents for making and using Bakelite. By 1930, his company had a big plant in New Jersey. Even though we don’t use Bakelite much now, it played a huge part in developing modern plastics.

Bakelite started the use of synthetic plastics. It opened doors in technology, medicine, and more. Bakelite’s invention still helps in making bioplastics and eco-friendly materials today.

Games Slayter and the Accidental Discovery of Glass Fibres

Games Slayter, working for Owens-Illinois, stumbled upon something big. He discovered glass strands by accident. This moment was a game changer for glass fibre production. It led to big advancements and a key teamwork effort.

Owens-Illinois and Corning Collaboration

In 1935, Owens-Illinois and Corning teamed up. It was a vital move. Together, they created “Fiberglas.” This partnership pushed forward new ways to make things. Now, using bigger furnaces, the industry can make up to 100,000 metric tonnes a year. This huge leap was thanks to their joint effort.

Development of Fibreglas

With Games Slayter leading, Owens-Illinois and Corning changed how things were made. They started pulling molten glass into thin, long filaments. This method became key for making glass fibre. It was a big step for continuous production. Now, furnaces last 12 to 15 years before needing a rebuild, which costs a lot.

By 2018, there was huge demand for structural composite reinforcements. The industry hit 2.5 billion pounds. Thanks to older methods being improved, production has grown. This has led to new uses for these materials.

ApproachProduction Scale
Indirect Melt (Marble Remelt)Traditional
Direct Melt (Large-scale Furnaces)8,000 to 100,000 MT/year
Direct Melt (Small-scale Furnaces or Paramelters)150 to 200 MT/year

The work of Games Slayter and the team effort of Owens-Illinois and Corning opened new doors. They made it possible to produce glass fibre in big volumes. This shows their smart thinking and forward planning.

Norman de Bruyne and the Advancements in the UK

Norman de Bruyne made a big splash in the fibre-reinforced plastic field in the UK. His work in the 1930s set the stage for the future of this material. It changed the aviation industry a lot.

Impact on the Aviation Industry

Norman de Bruyne’s work with fibre-reinforced plastic changed the aviation world. His work in the 1930s made these materials stronger yet lighter. This was huge for creating better aircraft.

Getting financial and technical support for his work was key. It led to more breakthroughs in aviation. He made sure his ideas could be used in real planes and structures.

At this time, a company named Hexcel was also doing important work. Led by Ed Rule and others, Hexcel grew a lot, having 3,500 staff when Rule retired. They made important parts for the Apollo 11 space mission. Ken Holland’s know-how in resin and adhesive tech helped make strong materials for the military. You can read more about Hexcel’s history here.

Norman de Bruyne’s work still affects the aviation industry today in the UK. His endless push for new ideas has left a lasting mark on flying and composite materials.

Key ContributorsContributionsImpact
Norman de BruyneDeveloped fibre-reinforced plastic for aviationRevolutionised aircraft design
Ed RuleLed Hexcel with over 30 years of serviceExpanded workforce; involved in Apollo 11
Ken HollandBrought resin and adhesive technology expertiseAided in military contract manufacturing

DuPont’s Contributions to Polyester Resins

DuPont has long been a leader in synthetic polymer research. Their work in developmental milestones in composites is key. In 1936, DuPont patented unsaturated polyester resin (UPR). This polyester resin innovation crucially advanced composite manufacturing. It paved the way for strong, corrosion-resistant materials.

DuPont’s research clearly stands out when we compare polymers. Nylons and polyesters have unique, important qualities for industry:

ParameterNylon 46Nylon 612PBT
Melting Point545 F/285 C423 F/217 C223-225 C
Glass-Transition Temperature (Tg)60-75 C75-80 C75-85 C
Water AbsorptionHigh (10x of polyester)High (10x of polyester)Low
Retention Above Tg25%25%15%
Improvement with 30% Glass Fiber225-240%225-240%200%
Oxidation ResistanceLowerLowerHigher

Although nylons have special qualities, DuPont’s UPR work kept polyesters competitive. They are especially used in tyre cords. DuPont’s insight into making tough materials showcases their legacy in synthetic polymers.

Ray Greene and the First Fibreglass Boat

In 1942, Ray Greene from Toledo, Ohio, made a big splash in boating. He created the first fibreglass recreational sailboat. This was a major milestone. It kicked off a new chapter in how boats were made. Boats became lighter and stronger thanks to fibreglass reinforced polymers (FRP).

Greene didn’t stop there. He went on to build 175 sailboats. His work inspired others. Soon, fibreglass became vital in marine technology advancements.

Marine Industry Adoption

Thanks to Ray Greene, fibreglass became huge in boating. Beetle Inc. made the first recreational fibreglass powerboat in 1950. Then, the 1950s brought us the deep-V hull by C. Raymond Hunt. That design changed recreational boating for the better.

Next, Charles Bennett introduced adjustable trim tabs in 1959. Jim Wynne brought out the Volvo Penta Aquamatic sterndrive system. These steps made boats handle better and perform more efficiently. The shift to advanced materials was on.

Using fibreglass meant boats could be made better and maintained easier. The National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) started in 1957. In 1959, Lowrance showed recreational boaters sonar technology. These moves show how quickly boating tech evolved with fibreglass.

1942First Fibreglass Recreational BoatRay Greene
1950First Recreational Fibreglass PowerboatBeetle Inc.
1950sDeep-V Hull DesignC. Raymond Hunt
1957Formation of NMEANMEA
1959Sonar Technology for BoatersLowrance
1959Volvo Penta Aquamatic SterndriveJim Wynne

W. Brandt Goldsworthy and the Pultrusion Process

W. Brandt Goldsworthy was a key player in composite manufacturing. His work in the mid-20th century led to big steps forward in making composite materials. He is famous for the pultrusion process, which he patented in 1953. This process pulls fibres through a resin bath and then through a heated die. It changed how we make composite beams and girders for use in modern buildings.

Innovations in Composite Manufacturing

Goldsworthy’s work had a huge impact on the composite industry. Before his time, people had tried pultrusion, but it was Goldsworthy who perfected it. He came up with a scalable, effective method. His collaboration with toolmakers led to a key patent about making long articles from fiber-reinforced plastic.

Applications of Pultrusion in Modern Structures

The pultrusion process has led to many uses in construction and aerospace. It allows for making long, continuous composite materials. For example, Owens Corning developed mats for insulating the Alaskan oil pipeline. There has been a lot of exchange of ideas between different regions, pushing the technology forward.

Below is a detailed table comparing key innovators and their contributions to the pultrusion process:

W. Brandt GoldsworthyPatented apparatus for producing elongated articles from fibre reinforced plastic materialEstablished a scalable pultrusion process
J.H. WatsonFiled patent for the manufacture of strings through a similar processSet early groundwork for pultrusion techniques
Rodger WhiteDeveloped intermittent pultrusion ‘pull-and-purge’ methodEnhanced versatility of pultrusion processes
Hugo (Toolmaker)Created guides for mats based on Goldsworthy’s designsImproved handling and accuracy in pultrusion

Pioneering Efforts During World War II

World War II was a turning point for the composites industry. It led to major advancements in glass fibre-reinforced plastics (GFRP). The war’s high demands sped up innovation, especially in the aerospace industry. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base played a central role in this progress, working on aircraft structure.

The creation of the first GFRP fuselage in 1944 was a major milestone. It marked a big leap in aerospace development.

Aerospace Innovations at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was key in advancing aviation composites. There, the focus was on fibre-reinforced plastics (FRP) for tough conditions. This work led to the creation of many FRP parts, making military planes stronger and more durable.

These advances laid the groundwork for future progress in aviation. They helped both military and civilian aviation grow stronger.

Development of FRP Pipelines and Automotive Parts

FRP’s use wasn’t limited to aerospace; it also transformed other sectors. One application was FRP pipelines, offering a strong, lightweight alternative to traditional materials. This improvement was key in enhancing efficiency and lowering maintenance costs.

Similarly, the automotive industry started using FRP for its benefits like high strength and corrosion resistance. These developments showed FRP’s wider potential and set the stage for its future use across various industries.