What is the difference between Composites, FRP and GRP?
A lot of terms used in the composites industry are confusing. Let’s try to clarify the terminology.
By definition, a “composite” is an engineering material consisting of 2 or more dissimilar components. These dissimilar components are usually classed as the matrix and the reinforcement. The matrix can be plastic (or “polymer”), metal or ceramic and the reinforcement is either particulate or fibre based.
Metal and ceramic matrix composites are usually referred to as MMC or CMC
In practice however, the vast majority of “composites” are fibre reinforced plastics, hence the term FRP. The type of fibre could be glass, carbon, aramid etc. and the plastic is usually a thermosetting resin such as polyester, vinyl ester or epoxy. If the reinforcing fibre is glass, the composite can also be referred to as glass reinforced plastic or “GRP”.
Although the terms ‘Composite’ and ‘FRP’ are generally synonymous, i.e. they are both taken to mean fibre reinforced plastic or polymer, the term “composite” tends to imply the use of carbon fibre reinforcing fibres and to be associated more with the high performance end of the market, e.g. aerospace. “FRP” is a term more likely to be used when referring to engineering materials used in industrial applications.
However, when it comes to referring to the industry, the term “composites” is generally and generically used
“GRP”, glass reinforced plastic, on the other hand is rarely used for high performance applications and although can refer to true engineering composites, “GRP” is a term usually reserved for low performance applications such as swimming pools, shower cubicles, panels, covers, enclosures etc..