Building and Construction

A Non-Metallic Alternative to Structural Steel

16 May 2018
Source: Advantic LLC

Steel has been the most dominant structural support building material for the better part of the past century. From structural steel profiles, support beams, columns and joists to rebar and other concrete reinforcements, steel provides unparalleled flexibility coupled with high strength and durability. It is also seen as a sustainable building material as it is highly recyclable and reusable. Although steel will continue to dominate the realm of structural building materials for the foreseeable future, pultruded fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) is an attractive alternative that offers superior corrosion resistance and higher strength-to-weight ratios.

Pultruded FRP Composites

Pultruded FRP composites are a lightweight alternative to structural steel. Manufacturers like Advantic provide a range of pultruded FRP composites that outperform steel pound-for-pound, while providing a host of additional benefits including low electrical conductivity, corrosion resistance and high impact strengths.

Their FRP composites are offered with a range of reinforcing fibers, including everything from carbon fiber to E-glass. A wide range of plates, channels and structural profiles are available that address cost and performance characteristics in demanding applications where steel exhibits a limited lifespan, such as in the food and beverage industries.

In applications where RF permeability is critical or where a building material with low thermal or electrical conductivity is paramount, pultruded FRP composites are an ideal structural element. They exhibit a dielectric strength of 35 kilovolts per inch and are EM/RF transparent.

They also address material compatibility, eliminating concerns with galvanic corrosion, crevice corrosion and pitting corrosion, even when they are subject to highly oxidizing environments. There is no leaching of applied coatings or treatments and they are immune to a wide range of chemical species.

They can be painted, coated or pigmented during manufacturing. They are virtually maintenance-free and can be manufactured to meet food and beverage and pharma industry requirements.

Advantic is a pultruded FRP composite solutions partner based in Dayton, Ohio. Dedicated to innovative uses of pultruded FRP composites, they work with industry partners providing turnkey solutions. Their emphasis is in high-performance environments where conventional construction materials are simply inadequate and the use of composite materials not only provides performance improvements but provides for credible economic benefits that reduce installation and total lifecycle costs.

Composites Growth Initiative (CGI)

The American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) has addressed trust issues with the development of the Composites Growth Initiative (CGI). By partnering with other credible regulatory bodies like ANSI they have co-developed codes, standards and guidelines that both educate and promote the use of FRP composites.

Sub-committees have been formed to support market penetration and overall market growth of composite FRPs. Current areas of concentration that address the replacement of structural steel include the architectural division and the FRP-rebar manufacturer council.

Pultruded FRP composites are a novel building material. As the industry moves forward with an emphasis toward pre-fabricated construction, the design flexibility of steel has become less of an issue. Pultruded FRP composites can be designed for implementation with other construction materials, and by working under the guidance of established authorities like ACMA, FRP composites provide for optimal cost reductions with exceptional physical performance.

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Discussion – 3 comments

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Re: A Non-Metallic Alternative to Structural Steel
2018-May-17 9:40 AM

I have a couple of thoughts against FRP. What about fire safety? Plastics burn, which means that a fire on the first floor of a building could drop the upper floors. (Yes, steel can do that too, but it takes a hotter fire to get it to a temperature where it weakens, but it doesn't burn even then.) Therefore, I have some problems with using FRP as structural members.

Second, plastics are made from oil; a large market in FRP material would surely affect the distribution of the world's available oil. Of course, if we could stop using oil for energy production (substitute fast nuclear in my opinion,) there would be more available for FRP.

Re: A Non-Metallic Alternative to Structural Steel
2018-May-30 5:59 PM

How does this perform in the subsea environment. Lighter weight would be a plus in several applications especially with ROV manipulated tools. My concern here is the corrosive environment as the steel used is usually 316 s.s. or 2507 duplex s.s.

Re: A Non-Metallic Alternative to Structural Steel
2018-Jun-19 3:11 PM

Are there any listed fire protective coatings or listed enclosure designs using gypsum board that would allow this product to be used and still meet building code requirements. The burning characteristics plastics and of other typical combustible materials (ie. wood) are quite different.

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