Fiberglass is a composite material that includes extruded filaments of glass. The fiberglass used in the automotive industry and in boat building and hull repair is different from the fiberglass used for insulation. Rigid fiberglass can be held together with an epoxy resin. Fiberglass mat differs from fiberglass cloth in the way it is constructed and in its appearance.
The ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians experimented with creating and using fiberglass. In 1880, fiberglass cloth was developed that was both durable and flame retardant. During the 20th century, fiberglass was improved and used as reinforcement in plastic laminates. When polyester resin was created, it was combined with fiberglass to form a fiberglass composite. In 1953, the first vehicle with a body made completely out of fiberglass-reinforced plastic was created, the Chevrolet Corvette.
Fiberglass mat usually comes in large carpet-like rolls and is used for automotive and boat projects. It can be used to install speakers in a car while making a mold for them, or it can be used to repair the body of a marine vehicle. Fiberglass cloth has a smoother-looking finish, excellent for water-proofing wood or other surfaces when combined with resin. Fiberglass is also used in a variety of household fixtures, like shower stalls and bathtubs.
Fiberglass mats make up most of a fiberglass body or kit. The strands of fiberglass in a mat are disorganized and can intermesh easily with the fibers of other mats, so they bond together. During construction, fiberglass mats are layered until the desired strength or thickness is achieved. Fiberglass mat has a higher density than fiberglass cloth.
Fiberglass cloth is a layer of woven strands. It is strong, with a uniform appearance, and is used where the look of a project is important. The woven fibers do not intermesh with the fibers of other layers of fiberglass cloth.
When working with fiberglass, use a mask designed to work with it. Always protect all exposed skin, and wear gloves. Because fiberglass is essentially tiny glass shards, if your skin comes in contact with it, it will cause irritation, itching and rashes. Also, the resin or hardener used to hold the mats and cloth together can be dangerous to inhale, especially in confined areas.
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