I just got back from attending the semi-annual RPAsia show in Thailand, with a trip up to Shanghai to represent Composites Technology at the China Composites Expo, as well. Both of these shows are picking up speed along with the Asian economies. RPAsia hosted 120 conference attendees with a well-balanced two-day program, featuring discussions of materials for transportation, industrial and infrastructure applications, new processing technologies and a look at markets and best practices. The trade show was busy, too, with around 1,000 attendees. The venue in Bankok -- the Shangri-la Hotel -- was incredibly beautiful and reasonably priced. One of our friends, a well seasoned traveler, said it was his favorite hotel in all the world.
The China Composites show is a bigger affair, with around 150 exhibiting companies and several thousand attendees. This is strictly an "expo." There is no formal conference with technical papers. Instead, exhibitors are able to rent rooms to which they can invite prospective clients or partners for meetings. Although major suppliers from around the world were well represented, the majority of exhibitors were Chinese companies. There were many resin and fiberglass suppliers, machinery manufacturers and moldmakers, research institutes and trading companies -- all bespeaking the vibrant industry that is growing in that region.
At both shows, it was obvious that there is enormous interest in composites and that tremendous energy is being expended to develop composite materials in this part of the world -- going both ways. Working out the trade issues is still a major consideration, which is where the experienced trading companies come into play. (We plan a feature article on the ins and outs of international distribution in 2005.) This kind of activity will certainly bring competitive pressure to bear on all the players, from materials suppliers to parts makers.
But listening to the papers at RPAsia, I was struck by how many different kinds of nontraditional applications are being developed in the Asian markets -- mostly for transportation and industrial components -- and how large the market potential has become. This kind of activity will ultimately grow, diversify and stabilize the composites industry. A more diverse application base will help smooth the peaks and, especially, the valleys in the cycles the global composites industry has historically suffered through when our traditional markets have gone into a slump. With that in mind, I'd like to welcome the several hundred new readers in Asia, who will receive this issue of Composites Technology.
Meanwhile, back to one of our traditional market sectors: We do boats! This is our annual boat issue, which we will take with us when we visit the IBEX show in Miami (Oct 25-27). For the 5,000 or so of you who are involved in the marine industry, I hope you find this issue useful. In the article on p. 24, several well-known boat designers/manufacturers discuss some essential principles of composite boat design. If you would like to add anything or offer an opinion, we'd love to hear from you. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, Re: Boat Design. In "Engineering Insights," on p. 44, a champion offshore powerboat racer decides he wants luxury as well as speed and tells us how he designed a new boat to get both. See you in Miami, if not before.
P.S. Catch our discussion of the recently held SPE's Automotive Composites Conference (ACC) on p. 23, for which CT is a sponsor. Though it may lack the large scale of other industry events, ACC is the gathering place for those on the cutting edge of innovation in automotive composites.