Carbon fiber's crystal ball

There is a permanent and looming question facing the composites industry, and if you ask it of 10 people, you're likely to get 10 different answers. The question is this: How will carbon fiber be applied on next-generation commercial aircraft?

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There is a permanent and looming question facing the composites industry, and if you ask it of 10 people, you're likely to get 10 different answers. The question is this: How will carbon fiber be applied on next-generation commercial aircraft?

Given the substantial use of carbon fiber on the Airbus A350 XWB and the Boeing 787, you might naturally assume we would see similar in post-A350/787 aircraft. And you'd probably be wrong, for a lot of reasons that have to do with aircraft size and laminate thickness and aircraft build rate and much more. And that's why you have 10 different answers: Because future carbon fiber use in aerospace is not predicted by past carbon fiber use in aerospace, speculation abounds.

CompositesWorld's annual Carbon Fiber conference is coming up Nov. 9-11 in Scottsdale, Arizona, and there will be no shortage there of learned and educated opinion about carbon fiber's aerospace value, where it might be used in future aircraft, and how much in demand it's likely to be.

Among those you'll hear is Adrian Williams, co-founder and managing director of Future Materials Group (FMG; Cambridge, UK), who will take lessons learned from the A350 and 787 and apply them to next-generation narrow-body aircraft, like whatever becomes of the 737 and A320, which have build rates orders of magnitude larger than wide-body aircraft.

For a sneak peak at Adrian's position on the matter, check out his column in CompositesWorld earlier this year. To hear what Adrian — and many others — have to say in person about carbon fiber's future, come to the Carbon Fiber conference . I look forward to seeing you there.