glass fiber alternative

Heartland Will Augment Glass Fibers in Plastics with Hemp Fibers – An Alternative to Reduce Cost & Weight

The Lowdown on Glass and Glass Fiber

Glass is one of the most common raw materials we see in use today. It can be made into anything from windows to tableware to furniture, and the list goes on. It is also a material that has changed significantly over time. One big advancement was adding glass fibers to plastics (known as fiberglass) in 1932. So let’s explore the history of this very versatile material, and look at the glass fiber alternatives of today.

While sometimes glass is referred to as a mineral, glass itself technically is not. However, the materials that make up glass are mineral in nature, and many times are mined.

Traditionally, commercial glass is made from three basic ingredients—sand, limestone and soda ash. These are heated until they melt and then cooled quickly before they have time to form crystals in the glass.

Along with being lightweight and strong, glass is recyclable and cost effective. Glass also comes in many forms. According to Simplicable, there are no less than 38 types of glass! However for our purposes we’re focusing on glass fibers, and more specifically, glass fibers added to plastics.

Glass fiber is one of the most common additives for plastics as it adds many benefits. These benefits include increasing strength, durability, and performance. Because of its availability, glass is the most commonly used fiber in fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP). A glass fiber mixed with plastic is commonly referred to as ‘fiberglass’. This type of composite is typically used in use cases for mobility (cars, boats, planes, rockets, etc.).

Why the Automotive Industry Embraces Fiberglass

There are many industry sectors looking for for stronger, lighter and more cost effective materials. As the world becomes more and more technologically advanced, one of the industries that has been profoundly impacted is the transportation industry. This is due to a number of factors, namely that as vehicles become heavier and more complex, they require a new type of material to handle their demands. Not only do these new materials need to be stronger, but they also have to be lighter than ever before in order for them to meet vehicle efficiency standards here in the U.S. Because of these challenges, the future of the transportation industry will certainly look to new materials.

Since companies that produce moving vehicles are always looking for new ways to reduce cost and weight. One of the ways they’re doing this is through the additives that they’re using in the plastic and metal components of the products they’re manufacturing. As the fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) industry has evolved, there have been various segments have come about. One of these segments is Glass-Reinforced Plastic (GRP), which has traditionally produced stronger, lighter, and cheaper products. This, along with a seemingly unlimited supply, has created widespread adoption across markets.

Even with all the added benefits, Glass-Reinforced Plastic (GRP) has many downsides that manufacturers tend to overlook. Because the ingredients that make glass have such a high molten temperature (over 3,000 degrees F, necessary for extruding it into fibers) making fiberglass is considered a synthesized process, and the heat for that typically comes from petroleum-based products. Hence, there are significant environmental consequences and bottlenecks related to the production and distribution of glass fibers. 

Heartland Uncovers the Benefits of Using Hemp as a Glass Fiber Alternative

The world is searching for an additive in manufacturing that creates stronger, lighter, cheaper, and more sustainable products. Heartland has been researching viable alternatives for glass fibers for years, and hemp is the best alternative. The company is the first to commercialize hemp-based fiberglass composites, which are lighter and cheaper than traditional fiberglass.

Over generations, hemp fibers have been proven to be a superior replacement to glass fibers. Not only are they stronger, lighter and less costly, hemp is a carbon negative material. Meaning that growing hemp and using it in everyday products actually benefits our environment.

Strength Increases

Hemp fibers have a strong tensile strength when compared to glass fibers, allowing manufacturers to use fewer products to accomplish the same results. They are known for their durability, making them an attractive option for manufacturers and it has a tensile strength that is twice as high as glass fiber.

Weight Reduction

Hemp fiber is often used for many things, including paper, textiles, insulation and more. However, manufacturers are now finding that hemp is being used for products such as car parts and plastics. It’s easy to see why. Hemp fibers have a lower molecular weight than glass fibers, which means when manufacturers use the same amount of fibers, they can reduce the weight of their end product by up to 44%

Cost Reduction

Glass fibers come with a hefty price increase over virgin plastic material with traditional fillers. Hemp fibers reduce the cost of goods sold (COGS) while maintaining superior attributes.

With hemp fiber production rising in the United States, fiberglass may no longer be the only option for manufacturers. Manufacturers, retailers and consumers are going to have to prepare for a shift in how they value fabrics.

Carbon Negative

The growing and processing of hemp fibers remove 1.62 tons of carbon from the atmosphere for every 1 ton grown. Glass fibers have a net negative impact on the environment that has been overlooked because of petroleum interests driving its adoption. 

Why Hemp is an Important Glass Fiber Alternative to the Future of Manufacturing

Hemp is an environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic that has the potential to reduce the weight of a product while maintaining its structural integrity. The hemp plant can be used as a raw material in plastics, composites, construction materials and textiles. The fibers are also used in insulation and paper products.

Companies such as Ford utilize these materials to ensure the highest safety standards while adding strength and lowering weight compared to unreinforced plastics and metals. In today’s Ford Explorer, there are 700 pounds of plastic reinforced with glass. This requires a glass fiber supply chain that could easily be replaced with a hemp fiber supply chain. The ability to leverage hemp materials will help to reduce the weight of plastic while maintaining the structural integrity of the end product.

Hemp material is an excellent substitute for plastic in the manufacturing process because hemp is a much less dense material. This means that hemp would not have to be as thick as plastic to achieve the same structural integrity. Additionally, hemp is biodegradable and can be fully composted whereas plastic can take hundreds of years to decompose.

Hemp is a renewable resource that has very high tensile strength and durability. The fibers are also increasingly being used due to their lack of odor, high resistance to the elements, how quickly the material can be cut and processed, and their ability to be blended with other materials.

Manufacturers who integrate Heartland’s hemp materials into their production practices will not require retooling or changes to existing equipment. Since there is not a significant transition for manufacturers, the products of tomorrow can easily integrate newfound competitive advantages. As our world shifts toward a more environmentally friendly future, there will be a separation between manufacturers who leverage eco-friendly supply chains, and manufacturers who don’t. 

As the world begins transitioning to more sustainable fuel sources, there will be a corresponding movement toward sustainable materials. Heartland will have the only reliable hemp supply chain in America as manufacturers begin to adopt stronger, lighter, cheaper, and more eco-friendly materials.

Ask us at Heartland about how the products you are manufacturing can benefit from hemp-based additives. The future starts right now. 

Join us as we make a world out of hemp.

Heartland Team