Porta Fiberglass, Inc.

Artistry in Fiberglass

Chicago Trump Tower Special Project

In March of 2008, Porta Fiberglass, Inc. was selected to build the 200 ft. fiberglass spire to sit atop the Trump International Hotel and Tower in downtown Chicago, Illinois, named for famed real estate developer Donald Trump. The Trump International Hotel and Tower is expected to be 415 meters (1,362 feet with Spire - 1,170 feet without Spire) tall and contain 92 floors for various uses. It will be second only to the Sears Tower and will be the second tallest building in the City.

Trump International Hotel and Tower

This has been a great opportunity to apply all the skills of the company to the completion of this highly visible product. It has also been a great challenge from an engineering and design standpoint.

Porta Fiberglass, Inc. was selected by Tower Innovations of Newburgh, Indiana, and the Bovis Lend Lease company of Chicago, which oversees the entire Trump Tower project. Tower Innovations will build the metal framework which will hold the fiberglass cylinders.

The project required production by Porta Fiberglass, Inc. of plugs, molds, and finished parts for each of the three cylinder diameters - 10 ft, 6 ft, and 4 ft. Each cylinder consists of three sections, and at the points of cylinder diameter reduction (10 ft to 6 ft, and 6 ft to 4 ft.) there is a sloping part that makes the transition smooth and flowing. Those two parts also required plugs and molds.

First hurdle was design of cylinder plugs which would allow for shrinkage of the mold, which would then allow for shrinkage of the final parts which, when assembled into cylinders, would meet the exact sizes specified.

Building a Plug

The plug must be designed, as mentioned, to allow for shrinkage of the fiberglass mold that will be produced from it. The first step after all the dimensions have been calculated, is to produce a very sturdy, non-bending, framework for the plug. The Company handcrafts plugs from several different materials. For this project, a wood plug was chosen for its strength and rigidity.

Framework for the Plug

Next comes completion of the surface. First a layer of thin plywood is attached for sturdiness, then a layer of formica is added to provide a slick, flawless surface.

Completed Plug

After careful trimming, and detail work, the plug is complete and ready to go.

Building a Mold

The first step is to apply some orange tooling to the plug to provide a good separation layer.

Orange Tooling Surface Application

After that coat is dry, the next step is to apply a skin coat of fiberglass, followed by the bulk laminate.

Plug with Fiberglass and Bulk Laminate

After the bulk laminate is cured, a wooden frame is added to support the mold when removed from the plug and to provide easier handling when building final parts from it..

Here, the process of removing the mold from the plug is begun by doing a little light tapping on some wooden wedges to loosen the mold.

Removing the Mold

And once all the tapping and loosening is complete, it is time to complete the removal and see if a perfectly usable mold has resulted.

Removing the Mold

The mold is carefully lifted from the plug and ready for inspection...

And it is a SUCCESS!!!! This is the finished mold for the 10 ft cylinder sections:

Completed Mold

This same process is also used for the 6 ft. and 4 ft. cylinder sections.

Building the Parts

The first step is to assure that the mold surface is clear of anything that might scratch it, then apply the gelcoat color of choice and finally apply the fiberglass and other materials in the proper sequence as specified by the laminate schedule.

Each part is meticulously made by hand with no chop guns used.

Hand Rolling

For some large surfaces, vacuum bagging is employed:

Vacuum Bagging

And finally, the parts begin to stack up, going together properly, and in the precise sizes required and the tower crew is really happy.

Completed Parts

And let's not forget the transitional pieces that smoothly blend each diameter to the next.

Transitional Piece

Delivery to the customer began in mid-May of 2008 and will be followed by additional deliveries as Tower Innovations, Inc. is ready for them.

During all this, the boat building went on as it should:

Boat Hull Construction in Background

We are all looking forward to the day the spire is fully installed on the Trump International Hotel and Tower. It will be worth a trip to the windy city just to stare at it.

We hope you have enjoyed this short trip through what for us is a very exciting project. If you have specialty fiberglass work that you want done, we are especially interested in architectural fiberglass projects, such as facades, column cladding, spires, sign backs, wall cladding, and fascia for gas station canopies and for convenience stores. Will also do specialty features peculiar to a specific building.

As with most major projects, preparation is everything. In this case and most other specialty fiberglass projects the preliminary engineering and tooling are the thing. Once there is a good mold, building the parts with an experienced crew is a breeze.

Porta Fiberglass, Inc.
200 Dale St.
Edgewater, FL 32132

(386) 663-3133

(386) 663-3134