Fibres on summer holiday
The life of glass fibres can be strenuous if, for instance, they strengthen pipelines or revolve in rotor blades. But they can also have a really cool time when it comes to splashing out, amid summer temperatures, in bathing trunks or bikini, in swimming pools, indoor and out.
“A water slide consists either of stainless steel or of GRP, that is glass-fibre reinforced plastic or fibreglass”, says Hendrik Wiegand, co-managing director of water-slide manufacturer wiegand.maelzer from Starnberg in Bavaria. The company supplies over 30 slides every year, and has constructed Europe’s biggest slide world (2,500 slide metres – omg!). Since 2006 the slide professionals have been using almost nothing but GRP for their chute, shell and tunnel slides, of which some are cruising the world on AIDA cruise ships. “This material provides a wide variety of colours and shapes – we can shape curves, start and destination ramps, overrun barriers and even signal fixtures directly into the fibre component”, says Wiegand.
GRP is an old friend to the experts: this light and cheap fibre component has been used since the 1950s in building cars, speedboats and light aircraft, among other products. “Silica sand, china clay (caolin), chalk – those are the ingredients of glass fibres”, says Johannes Schumann, sales manager at glass-fibre manufacturer and Techtextil exhibitor P-D-Glasseiden from Oschatz in Saxony. The three basic materials are heated in a melting vat to up to 1,500 degrees Celsius, and the hot and fluid mixture is then passed through spinning nozzles. From their ends come the glass fibres, just a few micrometres thick, which are now worked into fabrics, mats or cores. To stop the sensitive fibres from breaking, an impregnation is applied to them.
At wiegand.maelzer the individual slide components are created from glass-fibre mats layer by later – resin, mat, resin, mat – which are then combined on the customer’s premises to form GRP water fun. But why not just simply a plastic? “It would not have the stability; you only get that when you put glass fibres into it”, says Wiegand. Sounds like some stable summer enjoyment.