Fiberglass is a substance comprised of tiny glass threads, or fibers. These fibers are used to make a number of materials, and fiberglass materials are widely used all over the world in construction, manufacturing, and in service industries. Fiberglass materials are popular for their attributes of high strength compared to relatively light weight. They are often composites of fiberglass and one or more other materials, such as plastic, acrylic, and carbon fiber.
Pure fiberglass fibers are used to make several kinds of materials. One of the most common is fiberglass insulation, a fluffy substance resembling cotton candy or raw cotton, which comes in long, paper backed rolls that are pre-cut to the common widths between wall studs and roof and floor joists. The fiberglass insulation is placed between joists and studs and the fibers trap air, acting as an excellent insulator. This material is notorious for causing skin and respiratory irritation, and should not be handled with bare skin or without a mask.
Various kinds of cloth made from woven fiberglass fibers comprise another category of fiberglass materials. Fiberglass fibers can be woven into a number of patterns almost like any kind of regular cloth. This cloth is used in a number of ways, but the primary use for such material is in the manufacture of reinforced plastics. These plastics are extremely strong with a high strength-to-weight ratio and are used for things like automobile body panels and numerous other uses, such as fiberglass cloth bonded with marine epoxy, which is used in the making and repair of boat hulls. Fiberglass mats are a type of fiberglass material that is similar to fiberglass cloth and is made from fiberglass fibers bound together in a random pattern.
Most fiberglass materials are composites. These composites are formed with fiberglass fibers and another material, usually a type of epoxy, plastic, resin, or other type of cloth. Often, fiberglass cloth is layered with another type of cloth such as carbon fiber cloth, along with a bonding agent. These composite materials are used to make a very large array of products, including electrical insulation, pressurized storage tanks, medical casts, and various sporting goods.
Surfboards, skis and other goods requiring high strength and low weight are often constructed from fiberglass composites. While many composite fiberglass materials are stiff or exhibit low levels of flex, high flexibility is a key feature of some fiberglass materials, making them excellent for things like ski and tent poles, bows, and poles for vaulting.