Using both fiberglass and carbon fiber has long been a staple in reinforcement materials. Despite the two being used for original applications and having different reputations, they are still synonymous in maintaining a high level of tensile strength within the composite world.
The general opinion of fiberglass has been that it is a low-cost product. The material’s principal applications include boat building, low-cost structural components, and drainage solutions. Carbon fiber has become synonymous with the other for speed and high performance.
On high-end solutions such as race cars, planes, and others, this is common. Carbon fiber and fiberglass are high-quality fibers that can reinforce engineering-grade things when 3D printing or other areas of building things. (Learn How Many Calories Does Hiking Burn)
In everyday areas, you’ll find fishing rods, kayaks, and kayak paddles, and other sporting goods are places where such materials can be found.
However, choosing the right material from carbon fiber vs fiberglass can be a tough choice.
In our guide, you can learn more about these high-strength composites and which could be right for you to use, or at the very least, you know which of the two popular materials to look for when buying your next gear.
What is Fiberglass?
Since the 1700s, glass fibers have been used for adding flair and strength to high-class ornaments, and you could even find glass woven into the fabric for garments in the 1840s.
However, the composites world didn’t see the fiberglass composite material we know until it was invented in the twentieth century.
Basics of Fiberglass Fabric
Fiber glass is a fiber-reinforced plastic made by heating to a high temperature and fusing melted glass fibers, melting sand, and extruding these to produce a fiber woven into glass sheets and coated with a plastic resin.
Using epoxy resins makes fiberglass a versatile material with a wide range of applications and favorable material properties.
It can be molded into complex shapes that are otherwise impossible to cast using other materials. Because of this, it is why you see it used for storage tanks, boat hulls, and paddles.
What is Carbon Fiber?
Carbon fiber in one form or another has been around since the 1800s. One of the earliest mentions was when Thomas Edison used carbon fiber in a filament light.
These days, the material was very different, and this early carbon fiber lacked the stiffness we see with the material. The production process wasn’t improved until the 60s, and developing a desirable quality of carbon fiber we use today.
Carbon fiber is made from carbon atoms bonded together in crystal-like structures, which gives it its strength properties. However, you’ll see a huge price difference for the process of making this fiber that is slightly stronger than fiberglass in some situations.
Carbon fibers can be woven into a cloth and mixed with an epoxy resin to make carbon composites. Following this, heat and pressure bind the materials, thus resulting in the composite material.
Carbon fiber offers several advantages of the two materials, which make it a popular material choice, such as high strength, light and offering a negative coefficient of expansion, thus offering thermodynamic properties. (Read Swimming Calories Burned)
How Much Lighter is Carbon Fiber Than Fiberglass?
A carbon fiber kayak or composite structure, for example, will save weight since it has the best strength-to-weight ratio and allows for the engineering of a highly rigid and strong hull.
Some construction methods affect the overall weight. However, it emphasizes the fact that fiberglass is 30 percent heavier than carbon fiber on average.
In most circumstances, these two materials are incredibly strong and flexible throughout manufacture, regardless of the given weight.
Compared to steel, aluminum, and fiberglass, carbon fiber composites are 70% lighter, 40% lighter, and 15% lighter, respectively. Carbon fiber is often used in high-performance weight critical performance products because of its light weight, strength, and rigidity.
Strength and Rigidity
Glass fiber and carbon fiber are both extremely strong and have high strength-to-weight ratios. You may be compelled to select carbon or glass fibers for some parts, depending on their stiffness. Carbon fiber is the material of choice for applications that require a small bit of flexibility.
Glass fiber is better suited to provide a higher ultimate breaking point than carbon fiber in applications where a significant part of flexibility is required. Carbon fiber has a relatively small flex window, but fiberglass composites are better suited to extreme flex patterns.
The rigidity of carbon makes it less capable when under certain abuses than fiberglass.
Any thermoplastic composite is extremely tough. Using plastic to tie the fibers together results in an exceedingly durable part. Because of its capacity to flex further without breaking, glass fiber is considered a “tougher” material than carbon fiber. Carbon’s incredible rigidity makes it less resistant to certain abuses than fiber glass.
Fiberglass composites are insulators and do not allow an electric charge to travel through them. Because carbon fiber is conductive, it may aid in the application of surface treatments like powder coating.
Carbon fiber and fiberglass composites are considered “radio-lucent,” meaning they are virtually transparent to radio and x-rays and won’t react to an electric field like aluminum or steel.
Carbon and glass fiber composites, compared to other materials, both perform admirably in acidic or corrosive environments.
The matrix plastic or resins holding the fibers together can improve this ability to varying degrees, from tiny to extremely large. Most other materials like metals in the same situations need additional treatment or insulation to protect them.
Thermal Expansion Properties
An extremely low Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE) is one of the many factors and characteristics of unidirectional composite-reinforced thermoplastics, as compared to the properties of other materials such as epoxy composites. Conversely, carbon fibre has a negative CTE, implying that it will expand slightly when the temperature lowers. This is partially countered by the positive CTE of the plastic, which results in a CTE for the part that is close to neutral.
In contrast to fiberglass, the manufacturing industry finds it hard to produce long strands of carbon fibers and expensive. On the other hand, fiberglass processes are much simpler and still offer a rigid structure once any resins dry. This is because fiberglass is far less expensive than carbon fiber for the industry to produce.
Carbon and Glass Fiber Composites
Several elements require the stiffness of carbon fiber while simultaneously having aggressive cost requirements to meet the marketplace’s needs, as found.
The industry has combined the two flexible components of carbon and glass fibers into a single product. This method offers each carbon fiberglass selection unique characteristics while conforming to program cost structures.
Results of Carbon Fiber vs Glass Fiber vs Fiberglass
When you see how strong is carbon fiber, you’ll discover the industry choice, and clear winner would be carbon fiber. (Read 2 Kayaks On Roof Without Rack)
Carbon fiber outshines fiberglass in most situations, and on paper, it is the clear winner in the fiberglass vs carbon fiber battle no matter what area it is used if the price isn’t an issue.
However, there is no getting around the fact that there is a cost premium. For the majority of people, this will be the deciding factor in their purchasing decision process.