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Lower Priced Carbon Fibre will Drive Advanced Composites Markets

17 November 2003

The global market for advanced composites consumes just over 140,000 tonnes/year of fibre reinforcements (carbon, aramid, high modulus polyethylene, boron, R/S/T-glass and some E-glass), with a combined value of $900-$1000 million (€775-€860 million). Progressive growth over the next five years will increase demand for these fibre reinforcements to 180,000 tonnes/year, although their value will only increase to ~$1.2 billion (€1 billion) in today's terms.

The reason for the disparity between volume and price is due to the fact that the price of carbon fibres will continue to fall during this period. Heavy tow carbon fibre is already available at prices as low as $12-15/kg (€10-13/kg) and could fall to $10/kg (€8.5/kg) within two years, which could drive the mass use of advanced composites in large-scale markets such as infrastructure.

This is according to ""The Advanced Composites Industry - Global Markets, Technology Trends and Applications 2002-2007"", a new market report published by Materials Technology Publications, UK. The author is Ed Trewin, a consultant who has over 30 years experience working within the composites industry.

The report examines the current market status and evaluates the prospects for growth to 2007 for each of the main advanced polymer composite types (carbon fibre, aramid fibre, high modulus polyethylene fibre and speciality glass fibre reinforced polymers), and carbon-carbon composites. Natural fibre reinforced plastics and nanocomposites are also examined.

In addition, the report also provides market information on key reinforcement materials (carbon fibre, aramid fibre, high modulus polyethylene fibre, high performance glass fibre, boron), as well as polymer matrices, providing production capacities, details of product range, strategies of producers, and other information.

Report findings include:
• The global market for carbon fibres has more than doubled since 1998 and manufacturing capacity now exceeds 30,000 tonnes/year;
• Demand for products incorporating aramid and high modular polyethylene fibres is growing rapidly, especially in anti-ballistics composites used to protect personnel, vehicles and cockpit doors;
• The market for carbon-carbon composites is a small-volume, high-value niche sector worth over $1.1 billion. Use in aircraft brakes is the main area of application, with almost two thirds share of the market by volume;
• Consumption of thermoplastic matrices is growing at more than twice the rate of thermosets, and in some applications they now account for 30% of the total.
• Advanced composites, particularly carbon fibre-based composites, continue to extend their penetration into the airframe structures market - and both major airframe builders (Boeing and Airbus) maintain very positive forecasts for new aircraft requirements over the next 15 to 20 years;
• In the automotive sector, reinforced thermoplastics in all forms continue to make in-roads, but mass-commercialisation of carbon fibre sheet moulding compounds (SMCs) is still some way off. However, there are current or potential applications for advanced composites in body structures for ‘super cars', fuel cells, fuel tanks and several other niche uses;
• Renewable energy markets, particularly wind energy, offer considerable growth potential for advanced composites (both glass fibre and carbon fibre types);
• Industrial applications are forecast to take a 60% share of the advanced composites market by 2007;
• The pace of progress in sports and leisure applications - at one time a very buoyant sector – has slowed down and future growth perspectives here are relatively flat.

The report evaluates the global picture, with growth perspectives to 2007, broken down by region (North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific and other), and by end use sector (aerospace, automotive, industrial, sports and leisure, infrastructure/building and construction, defence, wind turbines, transportation, fuel cells, etc.). Key producers and suppliers of advanced composites, as well as reinforcement and matrix materials, are identified and their financial performance and development strategies outlined.

The 290-page report costs €1650 ($1900 / £1150).

Either buy online directly from NetComposites (link below) or contact Materials Technology Publications direct (email address below).

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