Beginners Guide: Choosing your Fabric
Choosing a Composite Fabric
When it comes to composites, fiber is king. Composite parts are made up of both a fiber and a resin, but the majority of the characteristics will come from the fabric that is used. In laymans terms; choose your fabric carefully!
One of the most important decisions you’ll make before starting any project is choosing the fiber of your composite; be it fiberglass, Kevlar, or carbon fiber. In this blog, we’ll take a look at each of the forms of fabric, their strengths and their potential uses.
Fiberglass is the foundation of the composites industry. It’s been used in many composites applications since the 1950’s and its physical properties are pretty well understood. Fiberglass is lightweight, has moderate tensile and compressive strength and is tolerant of both damage and cyclical loading, as well as being easy to handle.
Fiberglass is the most widely used out of any composite material available. This is mainly due to its relative low cost, and moderate physical properties. Fiberglass is perfect for every day projects and parts that are not expect to need the added strength and durability of the higher priced fabrics.
Carbon Fiber is found everywhere from auto racing, to aerospace. Made of graphite fibers, which contain up to 95% carbon, carbon fiber has the highest ultimate tensile strength in the FRP industry. Carbon fiber also hold the greatest compressive, flexural, and bend strength in the industry. To top it off, carbon fiber has a very identifiable and desirable cosmetic finish that fabricators often look for.
As a tradeoff, Carbon fiber is generally more expensive than the other fabrics, and while it has a very high ultimate strength, there is no yield: it will fail suddenly and snap, or splinter.
Carbon fiber is used when a part needs high levels of strength and durability, and its higher cost won’t be as much of a concern.
Not sure if Carbon Fiber or Fiberglass is best for your project? be sure to check out our guide.
For specific product information on carbon fiber, you can also look at Fibre Glast’s Store Page For Carbon Fiber.
Kevlar is one of the first high-strength synthetic fibers to gain acceptance in the fiber-reinforced plastics industry. There is a wide variety of variations of Kevlar, with many different grades offered that have differing characteristics. For a comparison of the two most common, check out our post on Composite Grade vs Ballistic Grade Kevlar.
Composite-grade Kevlar is lightweight, has excellent specific tensile strength, along with a relatively affordable price when compared to carbon fiber.
Where Kevlar shines is in its impact and abrasion resistance. Kevlar is perfect for parts where high impact stress is common, such as canoes and kayaks, aircraft fuselage panels and pressure vessels.
However, Kevlar can be quite difficult to cut, sand, or machine, and will require a separate pair of scissors to be worked on.
For more information on our Kevlar, be sure to check out Fibre Glasts Store Page For Kevlar Products.
Below you will find a table with a comparison of each of the fabrics listed above. Note that there are many variations between each of the products listed, with specific properties tied to each. A product such as our #241 2 oz Fiberglass Fabric will not have the same properties of the more durable #245 10 oz Fiberglass Fabric. While this table can be a great starting point when making your decision, consult each fabrics Product Data Sheet before making your final decision. On our website, you can finde these under the documents tab on the fabric’s product page.
Looking For More Information?
Still not sure what fabric is right for you? Give our professionals a call at 800-838-8984 and they will be happy to step you through your decision making process.You can also find more information via our white papers, Fundamentals of Fiberglass, and About Reinforcements. Be sure to also check out our information in resins, including Choosing Your Resin, Polyester vs Vinyl Ester, as well as our white paper About Resins.