Pipes have been in use for thousands of years. Piping material has evolved through the centuries, from bamboo and reeds to wood and clay. Due to its malleability, lead was a preferred piping material for centuries. Since the industrial revolution, materials such as steel, concrete and plastics have been used and are still in use today.
Fiberglass as a piping material was introduced in the 1940’s, developed by applying glass fiber cloth and resin over a mandrel by hand. Towards the end of the decade, the industry began using centrifugal casting and the filament winding technique soon followed, resulting in the ability to develop pipe which could withstand higher pressures.
These two methods continue to dominate the composite piping industry and have benefited from ongoing advancements in manufacturing methods and materials evolution. Later the spoolable composite reinforced pipe entered the market to address industry needs.
Demand for composite piping solutions continues to rise to meet the ever-increasing need for water and energy resources. Today’s pipe market is estimated to grow at 6.5% annually with demand for composite piping continuing to outpace traditional pipe material.
Composites are two or more different materials that, when combined, are stronger than the individual materials. An early example of composite construction is around 3400 B.C., when Mesopotamians glued wood strips at different angles to create a form of plywood. Plant and animal resins were the only source of binders until the turn of the 20th century which saw a transition to man-made, synthetic composites.
During World War II the need for lightweight materials for applications such as military aircraft forced the Fiberglass Reinforced Plastics (FRP) industry from testing into scaled production.
Advancements during the 1940’s lead to the first composite commercial boat hull being introduced in 1946. In the 1950’s, fiberglass pipes started to be manufactured and adopted by an increasing range of sectors. Through the 1970s the composites industry matured significantly as plastic resins and reinforcing fibers developed, for example kevlar and carbon fiber. Materials and manufacturing processes continue to improve, making composite materials a preferred choice for a growing number of applications; from boats, medical devices, airplanes, cars, window frames, baths and pipes. Composite technology brings endless possibilities and the industry overall continues to see strong growth.