At the recent JEC Composites show, CT
had a chance to talk with Hugues Jacquemin, the CEO of fiberglass producer 3B (Battice, Belgium), spun off two years ago from Owens Corning (Toledo, Ohio). Despite the current uncertain economy, Jacquemin claims that 3B is thriving having found strong applications for its trademarked boron-free HiPer-tex high-strength fiber and Advantex corrosion-resistant E-glass fibers. The company recently announced the use of HiPer-tex in reinforced composite blast-panel, ballistic-panel and spall-liner applications. And although the company has a relatively small (~5 percent) share of the overall global glass fiber market, it has a greater than 20 percent share, according to Jacquemin, of the market for chopped strand and direct roving sold to plastics compounders. “Our glass formulations together with our new melt fiberizing and sizing technologies allows high volume throughput, for a lower production cost,” he states. Would the company consider expanding outside of Europe? “Maybe,” says Jacquemin. “Our thermoplastics customers are large global entities, as are most thermoset market players as well, and they want an assured, local supply of fiber.”
Jacquemin sees infrastructure as the biggest growth driver in the near term, while in the wind blade sector “the focus is shifting to achieving better long-term performance” and blade repair. He points out that the closure of lines that once produced 300,000 metric tonnes (66.13 million lb) of glass fiber capacity in the U.S. over the past couple of years has not resulted in severe fiber shortages, because automotive industry demand is down. (See the 3B item in CT’s “JEC 2009 Showcase,” at right)
JEC Composites 2009 showcase
Despite the doleful state of the global economy, the turnout in Paris — exhibitors and visitors — proved surprisingly strong.