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8/22/2016 | 1 MINUTE READ

The Freedonia Group: composites demand to reach $10 billion

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High performance composite demand from aerospace applications will rise at a more moderate pace, but the industry will experience tailwinds from wind energy and pressure vessels.

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Demand in the U.S. for high performance composites is forecast to rise 5.3 percent per year to $10.0 billion in 2020, according to a new report from the Cleveland-based Freedonia Group Inc. This will represent a deceleration from the rapid advances achieved during the 2010-2015 period, when composite demand experienced tremendous growth as Boeing's 787 DREAMLINER, comprised of over 50 percent composites, began deliveries. Going forward, high performance composite demand from aerospace applications will rise at a more moderate pace, but the industry will experience tailwinds from markets such as wind energy and pressure vessels, which are smaller but faster growing. High costs and labor-intensive production methods will continue to prevent these materials from expanding into higher volume and price-sensitive markets.

Aerospace will remain the leading market for high performance composites in 2020. Pressure vessels will show the fastest growth of all outlets, as high performance composites continue to gain market share in these storage containers for compressed gases. While the automotive market will see strong gains, wider application is still years off, as carbon fiber composites still prove to be too expensive and too slow in processing to gain widespread use in consumer-class vehicles.

The wind energy segment is expected to advance at a rapid clip; a recent tax credit extension will stabilize the historically turbulent market, and carbon fiber will find increased usage for reducing weight as manufacturers produce longer turbine blades. The defense and safety outlet, however, will trail average advances, as federal defense spending is slated to advance at a slower rate than GDP through the forecast period. The sporting goods market will also see only marginal gains as it faces maturity.

Carbon fiber composites will continue to account for the largest slice of demand, commanding 85 percent of the market in 2020, and benefitting from their declining costs and versatility across a range of applications. Aramid composites will show the next best gains, finding increased usage in industrial applications. Low-cost S-glass composites will advance at a below average rate, besting only other fiber-based composites that are seeing restrained growth due to weak demand outside of military aircraft.

The industry study is available here.

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