Winter 2010

Composites - a global market

High strength and low weight, extreme ductility, excellent resistance to acids, chemicals, moisture, impact and heat: these are just a few of the many advantages that advanced composites offer and which are recognized in many sectors.

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The Space &Aerospace Composites market group develops and produces composite materials primarily for space and aerospace. These are markets that are showing growth, and in which there is a major role for automation, recycling and innovation of raw materials, materials and processes.

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The market is dominated by the transport sector and the construction industry. In the transport sector weight reduction results in fuel savings. In the construction industry building light means that fewer raw materials are required. In building, roofing, spanning and infrastructure many traditional materials lend themselves to replacement by composites. The maintenance of structures such as bridges is subject to strict regulation in the EU. Supporting structures made of composites can consequently compete with metal structures. structies.

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The aerospace market share amounts to 4%, although this sector has the highest growth and greatest profitability (21% of the market value). The market for wind energy accounts for 3% of the total volume (6% of the total value). In the United States and Europe these two high-tech sectors are far more developed than in the rest of the world.

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The market volume of the worldwide composites industry amounts to eight million tons and has a value of €60 billion. Of this, the US accounts for 35% (value 36%), the European Union (EU) 22% (33%) and Asia 43% (31%).

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Frédérique Mutel, Chairman and CEO JEC Composites

On average the global market is growing by 4% a year. This growth is accelerating as a result of the increasing use of composites and improvements in production processes. Across the world some 550,000 people earn their living in the composites industry. These figures were provided by JEC Composites, which has extensively charted the ‘rich and complex’ world of composites. The composites industry is highly innovative. This innovative attitude is also essential, as the composites industry faces a number of challenging tasks, including automation (making production processes faster and cheaper through for example robotization).

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Production in Morgan Hill. The demand for carbon fibre will increase between 2009 and 2012

One of the specific qualities of the composites industry is its collective knowledge. ‘The market wants products that don’t rust and require little or no maintenance. Companies in the value chain are constantly working together to find the best solution.’ There is also internal competition within the sector: between thermosets and thermoplastics for example, whereas the real competition is taking place outside, in other materials. She feels that not all the companies can see the big picture. ‘The collective challenge is to expand the composites markets and you can’t do that with forty different families and poor arguments and resources.’

Blue fabric (Tecawork Blue 65287)