As I write this, COMPOSITESWORLD Conferences director Scott Stephenson and I have just returned from the China Composites Expo in Beijing (that’s us in the photo at right, during our excursion to China’s Great Wall). Walking the show floor drove home what we already knew: China represents unprecedented growth potential for composite materials, and suppliers from around the world are eager to participate. Stands were larger at the Beijing show than those I remember from the 2005 event in Shanghai. Many stands were the work of joint ventures — several partners or groups of companies that work through the same Chinese distributors. Most of the international resin manufacturers and machinery suppliers were there as well, and they, too, almost always were part of a joint venture, with the Chinese partner taking the lead at this show. There also were delegations from India, Thailand and Japan on hand, and a large pavilion housed the Taiwanese representatives, who billed themselves as the “Manufacturing Powerhouse of the World.” I saw fewer Western faces and met fewer people who spoke English — the China Composites Expo has become a focused and useful event for China’s composites industry. Although I haven’t seen the official count yet, there were more than 300 stands in the hall and around 8,000 attendees were expected.
On the exhibition floor, glass fiber was king, and the three big international producers, Owens Corning, Saint-Gobain and PPG, joined China’s Jushi Group, CPIC/Fiberglass and others on the Expo show floor with large, impressive stands. But carbon fiber also was in evidence. Taiwan-based exhibitor Formosa Plastics’ carbon fiber capacity now stands at 2,950 metric tonnes (about 6.5 million lb) per year, making it currently the fourth largest producer in the world, claiming 8 percent of the global capacity. And we discovered that the northern coastal city of Dalian, a center for emerging technology and international outsourcing (and the host city of this year’s summer Davos World Economic Forum meeting), has spawned a carbon fiber producer. We met with a representative of Dalian Xingke Carbon Fiber Co., which is, as far as I know, the first commercial carbon fiber producer in China. The company claims to hold several patents in areas of manufacturing technology. We also found information on at least three other Chinese companies that are gearing up to produce carbon, primarily for their own use. More on this later, in sister magazine High-Performance Composites.
Airtech International held a press conference on the first day of the show announcing the startup of a wholly owned facility, Airtech Asia, located in Taijin. The company’s founder and owner Bill Dahlgren said the 50,000m2 (538,200 ft2) facility will serve the company’s customers in the growing aerospace and wind energy markets. We also heard that Degussa has been purchased by chemical, energy and real estate firm Evonik, based in Germany. Although the Degussa name will be changed to Evonik, the well-known ROHACELL brand name will be retained.
Change seems to be the operative word in the world economy. And a significant portion of that change in the next decade will be driven by incredible economic development in China in the infrastructure and energy markets as well as aerospace, automotive and consumer product applications. We at Composites Technology will be there to cover it, as it happens.