China and Japan: Glass reinforcement market and its local applications

02 December 2002

According to Saint Gobain, China’s glass fiber market demand is forecasted to grow more than 10% from 2002-2005. In 2001, Glass fiber production capacity in China is over 240 000 tons including 80 000 tons C glass and local China market demand is around 200 000 tons including C glass.

In China, the biggest market is the Direct Roving and Chop Strand Mat (CSM) application segments at the present time. For Direct Roving, the major application includes filament winding for various piping, pultrusion for profiles & optical cable and weaving for glass technical fabrics or grids designed for road reinforcement, civil engineering, constructions or industrial applications). Since the labor cost in China is low, the hand lay-up application is much more common to use CSM than SMC (Sheet Molding Compound). The main applications of CSM are marine, industrial and sanitary sectors (boat, vessel, cooling tower, bathtub).

Japan’s total glass fiber market went down to about 250 000 tons in 2001. This is a sharp decrease of about 15% compared to 2000. Electronic market crash is considered to be the main factor of this drop. As a result, textile yarn have been the most affected because of the weight of yarn sold to Printed Circuit Board (PCB) industry, and decreased by 40% in just one year to 27 000 tons, just 11% of total market. Yarns are followed by Chopped Strands that decreased by 15%, with 41% of total market. Then Glass Fiber for Glass Reinforced Plastic market suffered the less although this segment has known a constant decrease for years. They reached about 120 000 t in 2001 with 48% of total market.

Year 2002 should be in line with 2001. The market hit the bottom in the 2nd quarter and should increase from then.

SMC for Sanitary: unlike European & American markets where Automotive and Electrical/Electronic applications are the main end-use for SMC sheets, Japanese SMC is mostly consumed by sanitary market. This induced specificities to this market like boiling resistance requirements (water for traditional Japanese bath has to be extremely hot ; between 40 and 50°C)

Anti-corrosion pipes for Acid Resistant Market: following Kobe big earthquake in 1995, Japan has been one of the first country to develop specifications for acid resistant pipes for sewage and relate them to raw materials like glass filaments.

Reinforcement used with Thermoplastics resins; PPS is mainly used in Electrical/Electronic for connectors for its heat resistance and in automobile for its resistance to chemicals. Recently, PPS has been expanding its use to water related market (pumps, valves). The Japanese PPS market was clearly affected by Electrical/Electronic slowdown and dropped by 20% to a level of 16 000 t in 2001.

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