JEC releases composites outlook report

In advance of JEC Boston, the group sees growth in composites for the Americas that will exceed expectations, in several key markets.

 JEC (Paris, France) is forecasting strong growth for the North and South American composites industry through 2018 as the result of macro trends that are generating demand for advanced composites across multiple sectors. Projected growth of the overall market for composites, which totaled $37 billion (USD) for the region in 2012, will continue to exceed expectations going forward. This expansion is being driven by investments in new and refreshed infrastructure, sustainability initiatives including wind energy generation, energy conservation in the automotive and aerospace industries and rapid urbanization, says the group.

"The growth of the Americas composites industry over the next five years will be quite robust based on current and projected demand from several key industry sectors," says Ms. Frédérique Mutel, JEC group president and CEO. "Our research indicates that the industry has rebounded from the economic downturn and is showing strong growth potential in many application areas – from wind turbine blades, aerospace components and building and construction materials to carbon fiber for automotive parts. Continued technological innovation and development of new applications will help to ensure the continuation of this healthy growth."

The increasing demand for products that minimize environmental impact is helping spur greater use of composites. The following areas demonstrate particularly high growth potential in the Americas: biocomposites: Global manufacturers in many sectors including automotive and building and construction are generating a growing market pull for composite materials that can be used to create lighter, stronger products with reduced costs and energy consumption. These materials are finding increased use in such applications as automotive door panels and seating. For the building and construction market, these applications include load bearing walls, roof systems, flooring, windows, doors and replacement for steel beams in buildings and bridges.

Automotive: High-performance composite materials have been used in the automotive industry since the 1930s. In 2012, the market for automotive composite products such as interior headliners, fenders, pickup boxes, and door modules exceeded $2 billion (USD). This is easily explained by the unique solutions they provide: fuel efficiency through reduced overall vehicle weight, improved safety and crash-worthiness and stronger parts. Increased use of carbon fiber by automotive OEMs and designers is expected to help drive continued composite industry growth over the next decade.

Aeronautics: In the aircraft industry, composite materials have been widely adopted because they help overcome obstacles encountered by competitive materials. For example, they provide structural strength comparable to metallic parts, but at a lighter weight. As fuel costs remain high, the industry will continue to search for new opportunities to reduce part weight. While composites have long been used in military aircraft and helicopters, they are now penetrating the commercial airliner segment on a large scale as well, stimulating the bulk of gains in high performance composite demand.

Wind Energy: The increasing size of blades is driving demand for new materials that offer a better strength-to-weight ratio and improved stiffness and tensile strength. Mixtures of fiberglass and carbon fiber show promise for these applications. Composites can also play a role in lower lifecycle costs for wind farms, another key driver for growth. The overall Americas market for advanced composites in the wind energy sector is set to more than triple to $25.8 billion (USD) by 2020.

Population growth, urbanization and a growing middle class are all driving new growth for composites in infrastructure applications in the Americas. Indeed, infrastructure is one of the top three growth industries for composites, which offer design flexibility, corrosion resistance, durability, easy installation, weatherproofing and weight reduction. Key applications include carbon fiber-reinforced plastic panels, rebar, and door and window profiles, as well as carbon-fiber-filled cement, which helps reduce overall weight for buildings, roads and bridges while maintaining high strength. Infrastructure will drive strong continued growth opportunities for composites due to innovations in materials technology that aim to reduce overall cost of end products by 30 percent, and evolving legislation that promotes their adoption and use.

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