Fiberglass Structural Engineering is celebrating 40 years of technical expertise and leadership in the Industrial Composites Industry. In the late 1960’s the FRP (fiber reinforced plastic) industry was just starting out. It was in complete disarray with few controls or standards, leaving FRP end-user customers with no one to turn to for independent technical and quality assurance support. FSE was founded for this exact purpose - to independently protect and represent the end-user’s best interests, and ensure high quality, reliable FRP. With FSE’s formation our founding engineers sought to bring order to an immature industry that was in desperate need of guidance. FSE’s early vision and leadership brought new concepts, sound engineering principles, independent quality assurance, and preventive maintenance evaluation to the fledgling Industrial Composites Industry.
When FSE was founded in 1976 we were the first and only third party FRP Specialist engineering and inspection company in the industry. FSE pioneered the concept of FRP preventive maintenance inspection and evaluation. Motivated by more than just prolonging FRP equipment service life, “We did it to learn,” says one of the founding engineers Randy Rapoza. “We wanted to know why this stuff was not holding up in service?” Finding answers got messy sometimes. Randy fondly recalls experimenting on a fiberglass bathtub to study acoustic emissions. On another occasion we put a few new holes in the walls and ceiling of the lab from some pipe pressure testing that got out of control. Our efforts were ultimately rewarded, and FSE became a major early contributor to the first analysis of the significance and meaning of transverse micro cracking in FRP industrial equipment, and its impact on equipment service life.
FSE has always placed huge value on research and development to support our engineering designs. FSE was an early adopter of empirical FRP material properties testing. Using insightful findings from this extensive material testing program along with lamination theory being developed by aerospace and academia, FSE innovated a new and highly reliable approach to effective industrial FRP laminate design. The earliest pipes designed by FSE decades ago are still in service today. In the early 1980’s FSE engineers teamed up with an aerospace engineer from Boeing to inspire and learn from each other. This relationship led FSE to develop practical industrial applications using aerospace techniques, propelling the entire Industrial Composites Industry forward in reliable equipment design methods.
Since its formation forty years ago FSE has been leading the industry with proven, reliable FRP engineering and inspection techniques. Many of today’s FRP design codes and industry standard practices are based on FSE research and innovation. Before personal computers or commercial software was available, FSE used finite analysis programs on Boeing mainframe computers to analyze FRP pipe system stress and flexibility. This is the analytical backbone of modern day FRP pipe stress analysis software. FSE was the first to develop comprehensive design, fabrication and installation specifications for the Industrial Composites Industry. FRP specification language commonly used today by many worldwide organizations is based on methods and standard practices developed and specified by FSE over the past four decades. Similarly, language used in some of today’s most respected FRP codes and standards was adopted directly from techniques developed by FSE engineers in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Our reputation for forward thinking excellence and reliability extends to the present day, as FSE continues to significantly influence industry standards for FRP design and quality.
In addition to FRP engineering innovations, FSE was also an early innovator of specialized third party quality assurance as an effective solution for the poor quality fabrications and installations that plagued the young Industrial Composites Industry. FSE was first to develop QA inspectors with focused composites subject matter expertise and experience. Our philosophy of combining specialized QA inspection monitoring of fabrication and site installation along with composites engineering expertise has resulted in significant FRP reliability improvements in the industry.
FSE has been the source of many other innovations in our forty years of business. Our engineers explored alternative composites and were early adopters of many new materials, including vinyl ester resins and ECR glass. FSE designed the first fiberglass railcar, which could hold more and weighed less than the steel alternative, and was strong enough to be stacked 6 cars high. FSE also designed the largest diameter (119 ft.) site fabricated FRP vessel in North America. FSE engineers developed one of the first laminate design software programs as a result of our early work in the implementation of laminate theory. FSE innovations have led to broad understanding and acceptance of FRP as a reliable engineered material for industrial applications. From innovation to implementation, FSE has positively influenced the Industrial Composite Industry from the early “wild west” days to 2016, and will continue into the future.