Composites: market and business model
The main segments in the global composites market are the construction industry, transport, electronics, aviation, the oil and gas sector, wind energy and sport. The largest part of this overall market consists of thermoset materials. In terms of volume, however, the potential for thermoplastic composites is much greater.
Thermoset currently dominates the space industry and military aviation sector. The same applies to aviation, but here thermoplastics are gaining ground. A large amount of thermoset is used in the automotive sector, particularly in the racing industry. Thermoplastics, by contrast, are much better suited to volume production with short cycle times. In the oil and gas extraction sector it is mainly thermoplastics that are used.
It is the drivers in these markets (see the map in PDF) that in part determine the value proposition of TenCate Advanced Composites’ materials and systems: lower carbon emissions, weight reduction, corrosion resistance, limited material fatigue, savings on design and system costs and lower life cycle costs. Carbon fibre-reinforced composites are approximately 50% lighter than steel, some 30% lighter than aluminium and stronger than either of these materials. Moreover, the use of composites increases the safety and comfort of passengers and provides lower maintenance costs.
At the beginning of 2012 TenCate Advanced Composites supplied composites for the solar shield of NASA’s James Webb space telescope, the world’s largest astrophysical observatory (photo: NASA)
In the world of materials, composites are said to have great potential. In the world of composites, there is a bright future is for thermoplastics. When it comes to aviation, thermoplastics will increasingly be used in systems and in secondary structures and then in primary ones. Together with its partners in the value chain TenCate seeks to develop new applications and geographic areas for these. The focus on lower emission standards in the automobile industry will lead to increasing acceptance of composites. In the case of thermosets, growth will be found mainly in increasing production volumes. TenCate aims to position itself here with specific materials and a high level of customer service compared with the largest players.
The TenCate Advanced Composites business model determines how the market group operates in the value chain and how it adds value to customer-focused system solutions. The business model of the TenCate material technology group forms the basis for this, with its four cornerstones of end-user marketing, technological innovation, product differentiation and cost leadership.
TenCate Advanced Composites brings its technological knowledge and the characteristics and sustainability of composites specifically to end-user marketing within its networks. The OEMs, which determine the specifications, are also included in these. This is where the materials are qualified. TenCate Advanced Composites can also pride itself on its reputation and qualifications among renowned market players. New mobility concepts in the automobile industry require thermoplastic composite solutions for full-scale production.
TenCate sets the standard in thermoplastic composites. Innovation results in a strengthening of its leading technological position, affordable technologies and the development of more sustainable materials. The percentage of thermoplastic composites in aircraft is continuing to grow. Process innovations are focused on the processing of composites, in particular thermoplastics. Customers attach a great deal of importance to the innovative capacity of suppliers and TenCate, together with partners in the value chain, can offer them a range of innovations.
TenCate Advanced Composites supports student teams both in the Netherlands and the US with mobility concepts such as solar cars. Most of these teams take part in international competitions, like the World Solar Challenge. In this way technical students become familiar with the characteristics and the use of composite materials, thus creating a new generation of engineers with innovation strengths.
TenCate supplies tailor-made products, which are geared to the needs of its customer groups. In the context of its system approach TenCate Advanced Composites is cooperating with other participants in the value chain to achieve the optimum configuration for protection. Co-creation ensures a rapid market launch time, provides control of the value chain and safeguards high quality. TenCate has the broadest product portfolio in the aviation market. Part of product differentiation is the development of new areas of application (both geographically and in terms of end-market) for thermoplastic composites in particular. TenCate also focuses on developments in the field of unidirectional (UD) tape technology and on automotive applications for thermoplastic composites.
TenCate Advanced Composites is the only producer to have facilities for the volume production of thermoplastic composites. As a major supplier to the aviation industry TenCate knows what it is to produce the highest quality with the smallest possible tolerance. An increase in production efficiency will be achieved through process improvements. The growth in the size of the market group is resulting in ever more economies of scale (purchasing power raw materials). The streamlining of production also contributes to cost leadership.