2010 World Pultrusion Conference Report

The biennial pultrusion industry event reflected the effects of the recession but looked forward to better days.
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More than 80 participants from Europe and beyond attended the 10th World Pultrusion Conference, held April 8-9 at the Hotel Husa Illa, in Barcelona, Spain. Conference guests traveled from 13 European countries, and several arrived from as far away as the U.S., China and Russia.

The event’s organizer, the European Pultrusion Technology Assn. (EPTA, Frankfurt am Main, Germany), characterized the 2010 event as “successful” despite the fact that attendance was down from the 2008 conference in Rome, which attracted 110 participants. First held in 1989, the conference takes place every two years and is organized by EPTA, which has been under the umbrella of Frankfurt, Germany-based AVK – Industrievereinigung Verstärkte Kunststoffe e.V. since July 2006.

The conference was opened by EPTA chairman Dr. Luigi Giamundo, the owner of pultrusion company ATP Srl (Barletta, Italy). Among the conference highlights were three market presentations: Heather Rhoderick, director of meetings and conventions for the American Composites Manufacturing Assn. (Arlington, Va.), led off with the U.S. market; Beate Hoffman, market intelligence manager for DSM Composite Resins (Schaffhausen, Switzerland), discussed the Asian and South American markets; and Dr. Elmar Witten, the managing director of AVK, followed up with the European market.

Witten’s discussion was of particular interest because he began by setting the composites (fiber-reinforced polymers) and pultrusion segments in the wider context of the worldwide plastics market. According to Witten, the overall plastics industry has experienced phenomenal growth in the past half century. In 1950, the worldwide plastics market produced 1.5 million metric tonnes (3.3 billion lb). By 2008, that figure had grown to 245 million metric tonnes (540.1 billion lb), an average growth rate of 9 percent per year.

Of that 2008 total, the largest portion was concentrated in North America and Asia. The NAFTA region (the U.S., Canada and Mexico) accounts for 23 percent, China produced 15 percent, Japan yielded 5.5 percent and the rest of Asia generated 16.5 percent. The nations of Europe collectively produced 25 percent. Against that backdrop, Witten’s statistics made clear that pultruders suffered a significant share of the woes that befell the wider composites industry as recessionary forces gathered in 2007. The production of glass-reinforced plastics (GRP) grew during the 2005-2006 time period but at rates slower than the 50-year annual average, posting 6.2 percent and 5.6 percent increases for 2006 and 2007 for a total gain of 11.8 percent. But as the recession storms gathered, production fell off by almost that much in a single year (11.5 percent in 2008) and by double that figure — 23 percent — by the end of 2009.

Worldwide composites production totaled 8.6 million metric tonnes (18.96 billion lb) in 2008. The U.S. and Canada accounted for about 3.1 million metric tonnes (6.83 billion lb), and the combined production for Europe, the Middle East, Russia and Africa was 2.2 million metric tonnes (4.85 billion lb). Asia and the rest of the world generated 3.3 million metric tonnes (almost 7.28 billion lb).

Witten then focused on the European pultrusion market, noting that pultrusion production declined less steeply than GRP production as a whole in 2008 and 2009. Pultrusion fell off only 8 percent in 2007-2008 and 15 percent in 2008-2009 (see Figs. 1 and 2, in which pultrusion production is compared with other GRP segments).

Witten concluded by predicting, based on AVK projections of worldwide postrecession growth in gross domestic product (GDP), that during the period from 2010 through 2013, composites manufacturers and pultruders, in particular, should see welcome reversals in their fortunes. Those hardest hit by the recession — Germany, Switzerland and Austria, with losses of about -5 percent — will see the 2009 GDP growth swing up to almost 2 percent on the positive side. The rest of Europe and Middle Eastern and African nations will move from −3.5 to +2.5 percent. NAFTA nations will swing from −2.5 to +3 percent, and the Asia/Pacific region — the only subset that showed positive GDP growth in 2009, about 1.5 percent — will record yearly growth of about  5 percent.

In all, 15 speakers presented information about innovative raw materials and technologies, new applications, and certification issues during the day-and-a-half event. Recycling and sustainability were major discussion topics. Prominent in that realm was a presentation on the “Recycling of fiber-reinforced plastics as illustrated by windmill rotor blades," delivered by Dr. Erwin Schmidl, head of the Geocycle AFR Department at Holcim Deutschland AG (Hamburg, Germany).

After the conference was adjourned on the second day, conference attendees visited Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning’s glass fiber plant in Sant Vicenç de Castellet, Spain.

A CD that contains the 2010 World Pultrusion Conference proceedings is available from EPTA. The disc costs €96.00 or about $124 (USD, plus value-added tax) and may be ordered from the EPTA Web site: www.pultruders.com.

The next World Pultrusion Conference will be held in 2012. The date has not been set. For more information contact Ursula Zarbock, Tel.: +49 (0) 6927 1077 13, E-mail: ursula.zarbock@avk-tv.de.

Aliancys AG

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