Custom Pultrusions for Handheld Devices
by Tencom Ltd.
Pultrusion is a continuous manufacturing technique wherein fibres and resin are combined to form a fibre-reinforced plastic (polymer), commonly referred to as an FRP. It’s an innovation that was driven by the Brandt Goldsworthy, whose life-long interest in fabrication bore many other interesting results.
Compared to many other materials commonly used in manufacturing, pultruded products offer excellent performance in aspects like strength, weight and malleability.
The key driver of development opportunities is the growing demand for durable and lightweight products that are resistant to corrosion for various end use industries such as sporting goods.
Led by consumer goods, various types of pultrusion are used to make sound barriers, tool handles, structural shapes, antennas, road markers, grating, decking, cable trays, rebar, ladder rails, sporting goods, window profiles and others. Find out more about the pultrusion technique from our guide here.
For these reasons, FRPs are currently transforming many industries. Demand for FRPs is steadily growing, showing CAGR of 4.5% year on year and is projected to reach USD 2,045.2 Million by 2020.
And though the durability and resistance qualities of pultruded materials make them an obvious for companies like car and building fabricators, what about smaller devices?
FRPs are not only useful in the construction of large goods bound for high-stress environments, these same qualities make them an excellent choice for handheld devices as well.
On a pound-to-pound comparison, FRPs outperform traditional fiberglass and even steel. Furthermore, different types of protrusion (different plastics, differently orientated fibres) can be used so as to increase strength even further.
Tools which perform a high-stress role such as spades, shovels and hammers can benefit from FRP components.
Further, FRP’s high strength mean they offer great protection. They can be used to fabricate cases for delicate electrical equipment, allowing them to survive long falls, or containers in which chemicals or air are kept at extremely high-pressures, such as in spray guns.
- Light weight
Although it’s comparable in terms of strength, pultruded products is 80% lighter than steel and 30% lighter than aluminum.
This great strength-to-weight ratio is beneficial for many reasons and really opens up the scope of possible uses. Many tools such as step ladders or mini-steps can be cumbersome to handle and tiring over the course of a long day.
Replacing tools like these with FRP versions may raise productivity and even reduce the number of accidents. The main characteristics of FRPs that make them suitable for smaller handheld devices include being:
- Highly moldable
Compared to most metals and many plastics, FRPs can be easily molded and shaped. This greater flexibility allows for ergonomic or other function-specific shapes to be produced much more economically.
Handheld tools or those commonly braced against the body become much easier to handle when they’re shaped to fit the user. This increased ease of use translates into higher levels of productivity, less frequent accidents, and perhaps even increased user/employee satisfaction.
However, the applications don’t end there. Shapes which were too costly to produce at scale are affordable with FRPs, which opens up the possibility for new tools and applications.
- Corrosion Resistant
FRPs are highly resistant to corrosive materials which means custom pultruded handheld products are ideal for use in outdoor, high-exposure environments.
This includes tools used to service building exteriors or the exteriors of other such structures like water towers or power lines.
In addition, custom pultrusion can be used to fashion small form factor equipment used in marine and underwater operations.
These include diving equipment such as flippers or tube-fittings which have to maintain their shape under high pressures, be lightweight and of course resist the corrosive effect of long-term water exposure.
Indeed, FRPs' resistance to corrosion, and as a light weight alternative to other materials, make it a great choice for protection in chemical environments such as masks, goggles and protective gear.
The same applies for any type of tool which frequently comes into contact with a corrosive chemical.
- Insulating Properties
FRPs, being plastics, are natural insulators. This makes them very useful for the fabrication of tools used in electrical engineering and maintenance.
Many insulating materials are not strong or durable enough for this type of work. FRPs are. This can greatly increase safety.
In sports and recreation, pultruded products, being lightweight and quicker to make, are increasing replacing materials such as wood and metal in equipment such as golf clubs and fishing rods.
Additionally, it is worth noting that many golfers may feel safer carrying a club which insulates as opposed to one which conducts.
However, it is possible to add conductive additives or use conductive fibres in the pultrusion process. This allows for a material which is also conductive.
Custom pultrusions have the ability to locate reinforcements (glass, mats, carbon fiber) and adjust properties to unique applications.
In custom pultrusions, reinforcements are combined into a composite in order to control important variables like weight, strength, stiffness and corrosion.
FRP insulates heat as well as electricity. This makes its heat insulation characteristics an excellent choice for handheld devices.
In addition, there are applications in the food industry: for example, where light-weight food containers used in cooking are an advantage over heavier ones.
Pultrusion allows rapid, cost-effective, high-volume continuous manufacture of structural profiles and components that are strong, durable, long lasting, and lightweight.
This is why custom pultrusion for small form factor products is considered one of the fastest growing areas in manufacturing.