Finely-spun glass fibers, or fiberglass, can be used to add strength to a variety of composite building materials. For example, fiberglass is often added to plastic to enhance its natural strength and durability. These fiber-reinforced plastics can be formed into different types of products using fiberglass molding techniques. During fiberglass molding, manufacturers pour the fiberglass resin into a custom-made mold. As it dries, the plastic hardens and takes the shape of the mold, which can then be reused to create additional products.
One of the most common uses for fiberglass molding is to create a replica of an existing component. For example, this technique may be used to create a hard-to-find antique car bumper for a historic restoration project. Manufacturers also rely on fiberglass molding to create new products, including parts for cars and boats, as well as household goods.
The fiberglass molding process starts when users create a model of the product they are trying to construct. The model, which is also referred to as a plug, can be formed out of foam, metal, or even clay. Next the plug is sprayed with wax and coated with layers of fiberglass and resin to make the mold. These layers of fiberglass and resin soon harden to form a mold. The wax layer surrounding the plug acts as a form of lubricant so that the mold can be removed with ease.
Once the plug has been removed from the mold, the mold itself is sprayed with lubricant or wax to prevent sticking. Finally, layers of fiberglass and resin are placed inside to fill the cavities in the mold. These materials are identical to those that were used to make the mold. After the solution dries, the mold is removed to reveal the completed part or component.
One of the major advantages to fiberglass molding is its low cost and simplicity. Both manufacturers and hobbyists can utilize this technique with little upfront investment in tools or materials. The reusable molds allow multiple products to be created with identical shapes and features. Even fairly complex shapes or items can be molded using this technique.
A potential drawback to this method of production is the skill required to make the initial plug, or model. Depending on the scope of the design, this process can be time consuming, and may require a certain level of artistic or manufacturing skill. Fiberglass molding also poses some risk that the mold will stick to the plug or product, which could damage the mold or the product itself.