GRP or acrylic? What’s the difference?
Every few years we look again at materials. And again, we have chosen to use fibreglass (GRP) rather than acrylic or composites because, on balance, it gives a better all-round product for a hospital.
Whilst acrylic is slightly harder than GRP, the way acrylic baths are made (heat bending and forming) results in thin patches along bends and edges which we have found to be brittle weak-spots. Acrylic tends to resist scratching in the domestic setting, however, we have found that the main type of accident or mishap in the hospital environment involves beds! And both materials will chip then. Fibreglass can be repaired easily and cheaply. Acrylic, if it can be repaired at all, is neither quick nor cheap. Additionally, we found we could add to the robustness of the GRP by having an extra deep gel-coat.
Cleanability is another commonly cited advantage to acrylic baths (in the home). Acrylic stays cleaner looking than fibreglass if one does not clean the bath regularly. In the hospital setting, this is irrelevant as cleaning is both thorough and regular. For hospitals and maternity centres, acrylic baths would cost more for no benefit. And as they are more difficult to repair and refurbish, we came down on the side of GRP.
We also want to offer midwives the ability to customise our pools or come up with their own bespoke pools. This is what the midwives at Leeds did and the ‘Heart-shaped’ model is what they came up with. Acrylic baths have far higher tooling costs, so the cost would be prohibitive. Acrylic is good where there are fixed designs and mass-production.
For all these reasons, we keep choosing to use GRP for our birth baths.