Fiber glass use in Yemen [Archives:2008/1207/Business & Economy]

November 13 2008

By: Ali Saeed
Fiberglass, also known as glass fiber, is a material made from very thin threads of glass. It has the virtue of a good weight to strength ratio, rust resistance, and ability to be molded in a wide variety of ways. Used as a reinforcing agent for many plastic products, the resulting material, known as glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) is commonly, although erroneously, also referred to as 'fiberglass'.

Glassmakers throughout history have experimented with glass fibers. Ancient Phoenicians and Egyptians made glass into fibers to use them for decoration, unaware of the potential that lay within it. However, mass manufacture of fiberglass was only made possible with the invention of finer machine-tooling during the late 1930s.

Yemen started using fiberglass in the 1970s. The use of fiberglass to reinforce plastic is the most common usage and most plastic products in Yemen are GRP. Home insulation and as roofing material also remain one of the most common applications of fiberglass in the country. By manufacturing GRP in sheet form and trapping air within them, blocks of glass fiber make good thermal insulation.

The 'glass' in fiberglass is the same basic substance used in windows and glassware. Molten glass is extruded through ultra fine openings measured in microns, resulting in thread-like formations which can be woven together. Different resins can then be added to this fiberglass material, allowing it to be formed and pressed into molds. The result is a heat-resistant, lightweight fiberglass panel ideal for electronic circuit boards or support structures for complex machinery.

Glass-reinforced plastic in Yemen

The first company that started to work in this field is Saeed Cleopatra Company in Sana'a. This company was co-owned by the Hayel Saeed group and Indian experts. The latter sold their share and the company moved to Taiz. There, the group sold the factory to Yemeni investors. The new investors sustained the industry by the name Cleopatra Fiberglass.

Fiberglass is imported to Yemen, mostly from Malaysia, the United Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Today there are more than 20 factories around the country manufacturing GRP and insulations, mostly manually. In Aden there are seven factories, in Hadramout there are nine, while in Hodaidah there are three and in Taiz there is one factory in Mokha.

Ali Hassan Bader, fiberglass expert and production manager at Mokha factory, Hodaidah said, “Factories using fiberglass also manufacture water tanks