Material Comparison - An Overview


What are the advantages of which material? We have summarised the top properties of GRP, steel, aluminium and wood for you.


Reading time: 5:00 min.

GRP, steel, aluminium and wood are all impressive

Wall made from GRP | insights by LAMILUX

The demands on materials can vary greatly depending on the application. While one material is well protected against external influences, another is a better electrical conductor. Each product to be produced has its own requirements, which is why the selection of material should be well considered. Ideally, you can combine the advantages of multiple materials in your product and benefit from different materials. The materials are all very versatile and GRP, steel, aluminium and wood deliver impressive performance.

Everyone is familiar with steel, aluminium and wood and the fact that the materials are used in a variety of ways is not new. For several years now, well-known materials such as steel, aluminium and wood have been competing against each other, including glass fibre-reinforced plastic. The composite material made of glass fibres and a plastic matrix has different physical and mechanical properties depending on the composition and manufacturing process. Above all, its resistance to weathering and its light weight make the material unique, so that it now replaces many traditional materials.
For even more information on what makes GRP special and how glass fibre reinforced plastic fares in the world of fibre reinforcement, read our free white paper:

GRP versus steel

Whether knife steel, tool steel, general structural steel or spring steel - we see steel not only very often in everyday life, but also as a reliable material in a range of industrial sectors. It is characterised by its long life cycle, performance and universal deployability. 

Regardless of whether temperatures are below freezing or up to 700 °C, steel stands out from the competition due to its temperature resistance and this makes it a tried-and-tested material in many areas of application. GRP is also temperature-resistant, but can only withstand temperatures of up to 80 °C. GRP scores highly with its corrosion resistance, with which steel is unable to compete. During the salt spray test, steel forms rust and blistering after just a few hours, while GRP shows no damage even after 20 days.

Steelwork | insights by LAMILUX

Top 3 advantages
 

Painted steel

  • Extremely high strength
  • UV resistance
  • Temperature resistance up to 700 °C 

GRP with Gelcoat

  • Hail, UV and corrosion resistance
  • Light weight
  • Easy to installation and cleaning 

A detailed comparison of the two materials can be found in the article "GRP and steel: two materials in comparison".

GRP versus wood

Wood is very popular as a renewable raw material in a wide range of industries. In construction, it has impressive performance with its structural, insulating properties and its aesthetic appearance makes it stand out as a decorative material. Similar to GRP, as glass fibre-reinforced plastics combine mechanical properties with visually appealing surfaces. Function and design - the two materials wood and GRP combine both. 

However, there are still differences when compared directly, especially with regard to resistance to weathering. Water causes wood to swell up quickly and can also impair mechanical properties. GRP is resistant to hail, rain and UV radiation. GRP is also streets ahead when it comes to cleaning surfaces, as even painted wood tends to scratch quickly, which makes cleaning with cleaning agents rather difficult. But there are also a few things to keep in mind when cleaning glass fibre-reinforced plastics. If you are more interested in the cleanability of materials, you can read more in a separate article.
 

Glass roof | insights by LAMILUX

Top 3 advantages
 

Wood with varnish

  • Low thermal conductivity 
  • Low price
  • Temperature resistance up to 240 °C 

GRP with Gelcoat

  • Moisture resistance
  • Easy installation and cleaning
  • Available as panels and sheeting  

Further advantages and disadvantages of glass fibre- reinforced plastic and wood and information on why the two materials are even similar can be found in a detailed material comparison.

GRP versus aluminium

Aluminum is a light metal and is one of the most common metals on earth. GRP is a composite material made of glass fibres and a plastic matrix. Both in the construction industry and in vehicle construction, it has long been disputed which material is the better choice. The two materials each have advantages and disadvantages. You should therefore consider carefully which material is suitable for your application, depending on the application. 

In a comparison of the two materials, GRP stands out due to a number of properties. Unlike aluminium, GRP is extremely resistant to rain, hail and corrosion. Corrosion in particular is a problem for aluminium. In the salt spray test, pitting corrosion can be seen on aluminium after just 9 hours. Scratches and dents give it a similar appearance. Although GRP and aluminium are both largely scratch-resistant, scratches are more visible on aluminium than on GRP. This is due to the structure of the materials. GRP is usually sealed with a Gelcoat layer that is thicker than normal paints and chemically bonded to the rest of the carrier laminate during the process. For this reason, scratches on GRP do not penetrate as quickly as in paintwork and thus cause less damage, which in the worst case scenario causes flaking and must be repainted for repair.

Aluminium work | insights by LAMILUX

Top 3 advantages
 

Painted aluminium

  • Electroconductivity
  • UV resistance
  • Density of 2.7 g/m3

GRP with Gelcoat

  • Hail, UV and corrosion resistance
  • Thermal insulation
  • Density of 1.35 - 1.5 g/m3 

In the article "Glass fibre-reinforced plastic vs. aluminium“ you will find detailed information about the properties of GRP and aluminium and what constitutes the two materials.