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US demand for glass fibers is projected to increase two percent per year to 6.9 billion pounds in 2007, valued at $6.8 billion. Best opportunities are expected for textile glass fibers in reinforced plastics applications, which will grow 2.7 percent annually to 1.2 billion pounds. Opportunities in reinforced plastics will stem from their advantages over competitive materials, including light weight, corrosion resistance and a favorable cost/performance profile. Slower growth is expected for glass wool insulation and textile glass fiber in other reinforced uses.
Growth in aftermarket to boost glass wool demand
Glass wool (fiberglass) insulation demand is forecast to increase 1.7 percent annually to 4.1 billion pounds in 2007. A projected deceleration in residential construction activity will strongly limit growth prospects for fiberglass insulation, as the residential construction market accounts for approximately 70 percent of overall fiberglass insulation demand. Declines in single-unit conventional housing starts through 2007 will be offset somewhat by growing aftermarket demand, as well as by more intensive use of fiberglass insulation per new housing unit. The best opportunities are anticipated in nonresidential construction due to rebounds in office, commercial and industrial construction applications. Textile glass fiber demand is forecast to advance 2.5 percent per year to 2.8 billion pounds in 2007. Building products and motor vehicles will remain the leading applications. Among other major reinforced plastic markets, best growth is forecast for the electrical and electronic market, stimulated by rapid advances in computer and telecommunications technology, which have shortened the useful life of many types of business equipment.
Glass fiber demand in other reinforced applications, such as asphalt construction products, mechanical rubber products, paper products and fabrics is projected to rise 2.3 percent yearly to 1.3 billion pounds in 2007. The best prospects are expected in mechanical rubber reinforcement applications, based on usage in a broad range of industrial component applications. Asphalt construction products will continue to account for the largest portion of glass fibers demand in other reinforced uses, a benefit of above-average growth for laminated shingles, which utilize 30 percent more glass fiber than standard asphalt shingles. Among nonreinforced uses, filtration and other smaller markets such as battery separators will provide good opportunities based on rising demand in high efficiency filtration and other applications.
US industry concentration
The US glass fiber industry is highly concentrated as a result of the large capital costs involved and needs to achieve certain economies of scale for profitability. All of the leading US glass fiber manufacturers operate globally and are among the leaders worldwide as well. Merger and acquisition activity is expected to continue as firms seek to expand existing operations, maintain economies of scale, enlarge market share and/or diversify into more promising markets or products.
These and other key findings are detailed in Glass Fibers, a new Freedonia study. This study presents historical data (1992, 1997, 2002) plus forecasts to 2007 and 2012 by type (glass wool insulation, textile glass fibers) and market (construction, motor vehicles, marine, electrical and electronic, consumer and others). Optical glass fibers are excluded from the scope of this study.
In addition, an examination of the market environment includes an overview of end uses such as construction and insulation, as well as pricing factors and international activity. The industry structure is assessed in terms of market share, merger and acquisition activity, research efforts and other competitive factors. Profiles are provided for key glass fiber producers, as well as producers of glass fiber fabrics, and compounders and manufacturers of reinforced plastic resins and products.
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