Fibreglass workers or laminators manufacture articles from fibreglass mixed with resin. They make prefabricated building components, bathroom units, tanks, pipes, canopies and bodies for boats, vehicles and swimming pools. Most of these products are made of fibreglass because it does not rust or corrode.
Fibreglass workers also manufacture and fit wooden and metal beams for reinforcing cabs and cabins in pleasure-craft and boats. Fibreglass workers make forms, models or moulds for fibreglass items, for example for containers such as storage tanks, bath tubs and basins, containers for acids and corrosive chemicals and measuring instruments.
When a boat is built, a mould must be manufactured from wood. On this mould, a fibreglass mould is fashioned with which the genuine fibreglass boats are manufactured. This mould needs to be smoothly finished to ensure that the final product looks good.
The form or mould is treated with a chemical releasing agent to prevent the fibreglass material from sticking. Successive thin layers of polyester resin are applied with a brush or sprayed on with a chopper-gun unit until the required thickness is obtained. Then a thick layer of resin is applied and immediately covered with a layer of fibreglass which is rolled on with a roller or brush to ensure that the resin and fibreglass mix well together. Further layers of fibreglass bonded together with a polyester resin, are applied, until the required thickness is obtained. According to the design, the item can be smooth or coloured on the outside. This is done by applying a special resin onto the mould with a very thin cover-layer of fibreglass. The layer of resin may then be dyed to the required colour. The cover-layer prevents the fibreglass pattern from showing.
On the inside of the item, a last, thick layer is applied to ensure that the fibreglass is covered and that the item is, therefore, waterproof. The product is left to dry and cure, after which the product is released from the mould. The item is then sandpapered, washed and polished where necessary.
Fibreglass workers need to know how to mix resin with hardening agents, catalysts and accelerating agents to obtain the desired mixture and texture of fibreglass. Incorrect mixing could be hazardous. They also need to be adept at working with all sorts of woodwork tools. Working conditions may vary according to the organisation or factory where the fibreglass worker is employed. Work is carried out either indoors or outdoors. The work place is usually well lit with adequate ventilation, although the conditions may be very dusty and dirty.
Fibreglass workers must take special care to protect themselves from the fibreglass and resin, which are difficult to remove from the skin and clothing. They must wear protective clothing such as gloves, safety boots, aprons and facemasks at all times, as the material used is heated to very high temperatures. Facemasks or gasmasks also protect the lungs from the fibreglass particles and chemical gases, which can be damaging.
Schooling & School Subjects
Employers provide training and it takes approximately 3 to 6 months to master the basic facets of the work.
Degree: A short course, especially for supervisors, presented by Wits under the leadership of the Plastics Federation of South Africa, consists of 1 day study per week, over a period of 8 weeks. The admission requirement is a Senior Certificate, but Grade 10 candidates with 4 years’ experience will also be allowed to enrol for the course.
Diploma: Persons who have a Senior Certificate with Mathematics and Physical Sciences can do the N.Dip. Plastic Technology at TUT. The duration of the course is 3 years and includes theoretical as well as practical training. N.Dip: Art - CUT, DUT, TUT, VUT.
Certificate: Art courses - various TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) Colleges.
The Plastics Federation of SA
18 Gazelle Avenue
Corporate Park South
Old Pretoria Road
Tel: (011) 314-3764