Analysis

Driven by a faster-than-expected pace of technology development, carbon-fibre reinforced plastics (CFRPs) will be poised to gain widespread adoption for automotive light-weighting by 2025, according to Lux Research.

Already advances underway in fibre, resin and composite part production will lead to a $6 billion market for automotive CFRPs in 2020, more than double Lux’s earlier projection. Even this figure is dwarfed by the full potential for CFRPs in automotive if they can become affordable enough for use in mainstream vehicles.

Current trends strongly indicate significant mainstream adoption of carbon fibre reinforced plastics in the mid 2020’s and companies throughout the value chain must position themselves to take advantage of the coming shifts. However, long-term mega trends towards urbanisation, connectivity and automation suggest that there could be a limited time window beyond that for penetrating the automotive space.

Anthony Vicari, Lux Research Associate and the lead author of the report said;

CFRP developers will have to continue the pace of innovation to overcome the high cost that has so far limited the material to less price-sensitive markets like aerospace and sporting goods.

Among the research company’s findings showed that the number of direct partnerships between carmakers or Tier–1 automotive suppliers and carbon fibre players has nearly doubled to 11 since 2012. Toray, with partnerships with Plasan Carbon Composites and Magna, has formed the most new relationships and is a major hub. Other manufacturing costs also need to be cut. Carbon fibre itself, at $28/kg for standard modulus fibre, represents just 22% of the cost of a final CFRP part. Additional advances are needed to reduce capital, labor, energy, resin and processing costs, which together make up the remaining 78%.

Using a predictive tool, Lux Research identified a lag of about 18 years between uptick of patent activity and attainment of mainstream commercial adoption milestones. With another major upturn in CFRP patent activity occurring in 2007, large-scale mainstream automotive use is likely by the mid–2020s.

The report, titled “Scaling Up Carbon Fiber: Roadmap to Automotive Adoption,” is part of the Lux Research Advanced Materials Intelligence service.

With the adoption and commercialisation of carbon fibre progressing well across many industries the high cost and integration into the end-users process still remains a challenge.

Partnerships between the industry and its research communities along with funding from both government agencies will be critical to spearhead the sustainable use of carbon fibre.

A new report from Frost & Sullivan highlights that end-user industries such as automotive and aerospace sectors are the driving force in the adoption of carbon fibre composites and, along with the carbon fibre manufacturers are funding a large chunk of cash, with the hopes of wider adoption.

Technical Insights Research Analyst Vivek Ninkileri said;

The automotive industry is already incorporating carbon fibre in their high-end products and are eagerly researching on ways to do the same across all segments, similarly, sensitisation on the importance of shifting from conventional forms of energy to clean energy sources, especially in the developing world, will significantly contribute to the development of carbon fibre for the energy sector

To ensure large-scale uptake in more industries, Frost’s report says manufacturers must design an eco-friendly and economical recycling method to prevent accumulation of carbon fibre waste. The high defect ratio and rising costs also deter key stakeholders from mass producing products using carbon fibre.

Investing in R&D and strategic partnerships with research communities combined with the successful scaling up of new technologies can address these challenges effectively. In addition, collaborating with end-user industries will enable carbon fibre manufacturers to deliver customised solutions.

For complimentary access to the report you will need to register with Frost & Sullivan here

As demand increased last year the price of general-purpose carbon fibre used in the manufacture of anything from sports gear to aerospace and automotive parts rose by 10% in 2014.

According to reports on the Nikkei, General purpose carbon fibre used in sports equipment like golf club shafts, tennis rackets bikes is now trading at $25 per kilogram on the global market, thats 15–25% higher than its lowest price, set back in 2012

Carbon-fibre used for general purpose manufacturing was often used in high end sports utility bikes, but now is being used in smaller bikes and more often. As for industrial use, the demand growing for carbon fibre among makers of pressure vessels, as the shale gas market grows in the United States.

Discounting for carbon fibre used in the general consumer market, generally regarded as high quality and made by companies in Japan is on the decline with makers directly competing with Taiwanese and Korean rivals less and less.

The prices for high end carbon used in the manufacture of aerospace and automotive parts and relatively flat, as end users have long-term contracts with the big carbon fibre manufacturers. Demand for carbon fibre used by the aerospace industry accounts for 20% of the overall demand.

Prices of general-purpose carbon declined on the global market between 2011 and 2013, due to strong overseas competition, since then the prices have risen although the price level for general purpose carbon is “still so low that makers are unable to make sufficient profits,” according to a Teijin representative.

Some makers have said they wound not want to throw cold water on the momentum for the wider use of carbon by raising prices unnecessarily with Japanese fibre makers hoping to attract demand from end users by using carbon as an alternative to metals and other materials. The environment for export is improving because of the weaker yen. Some market watchers, therefore, expect that carbon fibre prices may not rise steadily.

This month the trade organisation published the results of their fourth survey, and cover a wide range of information including the economic stability, investment climate, growth drivers and future expectations.

Following the trends of previous surveys, the current economic situation is seen as positive, however whereas in the last survey nearly 90% viewed the economic situation as “quite positive” or “very positive”, this share has gone down to just over two-thirds of all respondents. The downturn was to be expected after the very high level in previous surveys. Once again, the situation is seen as particularly critical in Europe, whereas it is generally rated as better for Germany and on a global scale.

Around 90% of respondents believe that the economic situation will be the same or even better in the relevant regions (i.e. Germany, Europe and worldwide) over the next six months.

The positive readings in the economic situation and the good overall future prospects are confirmed by several further factors. Nearly 30% of the survey’s respondents are planning to recruit new staff in 2015, compared to 10% who are planning to downsize their workforce.

An equally good picture emerges for planned investments, as nearly two-third of respondents are hoping to make investments this year. Likewise, a strong commitment to the composites market continues to be seen as worthwhile. Nearly half of all correspondents say they are hoping to step up their commitment to composites.

The main impetus for growth in this survey is believed to come from CFRP (carbon-fibre reinforced plastics). When asked which future growth drivers they perceived on the material side, nearly half of all respondents specified CFRP. The regional drivers in this segment are seen to be Germany and Asia.

For the first time the survey also covered the respondents’ assessment concerning future developments in different areas of application. The automotive and aviation industries are apparently expected by the composites industry to display the most positive development, followed by wind energy.

Both the general economic situation and the companies’ own business situations are seen by respondents as somewhat more negative than in previous surveys. However, it must be emphasised in this context that levels were extremely high in previous surveys. Yet despite this slight downturn, the assessment of the economic situation generally continues to be positive.

Images Copyright: AVK

 

Infrastructure development in Europe is steadily gathering pace following a period of weak demand during the economic downturn. As a result, the building and construction composites market in the region is gaining momentum. Continue reading…

As in past years, the development of the market for glass fibre reinforced plastics (GRP) mirrors the general economic growth of the countries included in this report quite closely. This is hardly surprising when we consider the application industries to which GRP parts are supplied. The majority of customers come from a very wide range of sectors, which in total account for a considerable proportion of the industrial production of the respective economies (e.g. automotive, construction).

It is important for the future that companies in the market for fibre reinforced plastics and composites ask themselves a number of questions. How can the potential of this relatively young sector of the plastics industry (compared to other materials) can be publicised and developed even more effectively? How can production and demand in the sector be developed faster than the overall economy? The currently hot topics of series production, substitution of other materials, innovation and precisely targeted combinations of materials contin- ue to offer enormous opportunities for this branch of industry.

Total European GRP production generally fell slightly compared to last year. To evaluate this development in detail, as in previous years, it is essential to take a closer look at the individual manufacturing processes, countries and applications. There is no other way of clearly describing the development of this ex- tremely heterogeneous market. As a specialist segment of the plastics industry, the GRP industry essentially tracked the general development of the plastics processing industry as it has done in previous years.

A survey conducted by the German composites association once again gathered information about GRP production volumes in Europe in 2012. To make it possible to compare this information with data from previous years, “Europe” as resented here again only includes those countries whose production data was explicitly available to the raw materials suppliers surveyed. In addition, this year’s figures for the first time include Turkey, which is becoming an ever more important player in the European composites industry, as well as data from other countries from South-Eastern Europe and Western Asia that have not previously been taken into account. In the following, the term GRP includes all materials with a thermoset matrix as well as glass mat reinforced thermoplastics (GMT) and long fibre reinforced thermoplastics (LFT), Short fibre reinforced thermoplastics are not included here. The market for additional reinforcing fibres (e.g. natural fibres) will not be considered here. Generally, approx. 95% of fibre composites are still manufactured from GRP, i.e. the most commonly used reinforcing fibres are glass fibres (short and long fibres, rovings, fabrics).

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