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Composite market promises growth, for specific sectors

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Trends for GFRP use, output

The development of the glass-fibre reinforced plastic (GFRP) market is described as a slightly positive sideways movement, according to AVK Managing Director, Elmar Witten. Some applications, countries and manufacturing procedures are showing positive development, and others less so. In the heterogeneous GFRP industry, the quantitative changes are reportedly partly due to shifts, but also to shrinking processes or to growth rates arising from innovation. As in previous years, GFRP development is thus following the current predominant economic trend in the development of plastics processing in general. Here, one should note that the composites market as a whole comprises many more application areas in various industry segments, with composite working materials established in many sectors.

Above average growth in CFRP, expected under certain circumstances, e.g., because of the aforementioned possible growth in the auto industry, will have limited effects on the total amount of fibre-reinforced plastics produced in the medium term due to its relatively small market share. In some production procedures, individual countries and in specific applications, there are different leverage points for the further breakthrough of these comparatively young materials. Furthermore, new developments on the raw materials side are to be expected. Usually produced in series, SMC (sheet moulding compound) and BMC (bulk moulding compound) components still constitute only a quarter of the total quantity of GFRP, with the car industry the largest customer.

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The manufacture of BMC components has show slight growth of 1.4%, as in the previous year, which is principally due to applications in the electrical and electronics industry. As it can currently be assumed that car production locations in western Europe and, even more so, in southern Europe will not return to former production levels in the short and medium term, SMC manufacturers are facing the challenge, but also the opportunity, of entering new sales and production markets. The present tendency towards the use of thermoplastic GFP in the auto industry could raise the pressure to act even further.

RTM powers forward

The production of RTM components grew in 2013 at an above-average rate of 5%. Because of the broad production possibilities and the great flexibility of the process parameters, a slight fall-off in open processes is observable. The 2013 production of GFRP panels and blanks in a continuous process is growing the fastest at almost 8%. The market for GFP pultrusion profiles is maintaining its position after falling off in the previous year; Europe-wide there is currently no further decline. The main area of application is construction, which in many cases is still moribund in southern European countries.

As in the previous year, development of glass-mat reinforced thermoplastics and long-fibre reinforced thermoplastics has been above average. This article orginally appeared in our sister publication MM-Maschinenmarkt.

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