Metal Matrix Composites in the 21st Century: Markets and Opportunities

Published - Jul 2000| Analyst - Mindy Rittner| Code - AVM012B
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Report Highlights

  • Supported in large part by a number of medium- to high-volume automotive applications for metal matrix composites (MMCs) and the production of value-added composite parts to dissipate heat from high-power semiconductor devices, the 1999 world market for MMCs reached 2.5 million kg valued at $103 million. BCC projects that the total world market for MMCs will rise to 4.9 million kg, valued at $173 million during the next five years, corresponding to a 14.1% average annual growth rate (AAGR) from 1999 through 2004.
    The ground transportation market segment consumed, by far, the largest volume of MMCs in 1999. By 2004, the ground transportation market will be even further ahead with a full 70.3% (3.4 million kg) of the market, due primarily to increasing incorporation of MMC components into specialty lightweight/high fuel efficiency vehicles.
    BCC expects the industrial market segment to increase at an 11.2% AAGR during the next five years, reaching 130 thousand kilograms in 2004, or 2.7% of the total market.



It has been over 10 years since Communications Company's last technical-market study on metal matrix composites. At that time there was a flurry of activity in the field - research institutions were churning out promising data for all types of metal matrix composites; new companies were forming and existing firms were embarking on composite development programs; and the commercial and military successes of a few early composite parts raised hopes that, by the year 2000, the market for metal matrix composites would reach $150 million.

"Are we there yet?" - This basic question sums up the motivation for this study, which is intended to realistically evaluate the current world market for metal matrix composites and to forecast consumption through 2004.

During the past decade, there have been many changes in the industry and shifts in priorities. In the late 1980s, it was forecast that defense/aerospace applications would account for approximately 80% of the metal matrix composite market in 2000. While the military aerospace market remains an important target for metal matrix composites, opportunities have emerged in other industries. The push for better fuel economy and lighter vehicles has opened the door to expanded usage of metal matrix composites in automobiles. Ever higher performance, heat-generating computer chips have elicited increasing interest in thermal management applications for metal matrix composites. And companies in the are working to create new market opportunities for their composite products in industries that, 10 years ago, had never even heard of metal matrix composites.

The importance of this technical-market study lies in its comprehensiveness, timeliness, and uniqueness. This exhaustive report is the only up-to-date source of industry information and market data on metal matrix composites.


This study fills a gap in the published literature on metal matrix composites. While numerous technical papers and overview articles have been written on the subject during the past decade, until now a thorough and up-to-date technical-market analysis has not been available. This comprehensive report covers the technology, industry structure, and world markets for all types of metal matrix composites. The primary objective of this study is to provide current market data and realistic forecasts through 2004, segmented by end-use industry, application, and composite material type.


This timely report will be useful for companies and institutions that:


  • Manufacture metal matrix composites in the form of ingot, billet, sheet, or finished components;
  • Produce aluminum alloys, titanium alloys, iron and steel, nickel-base superalloys, polymer matrix composites, or other advanced materials that compete with MMCs in terms of performance and cost;
  • Are evaluating or using MMCs for specific applications in their ;
  • Are involved in the aerospace, automotive, electronics, sporting goods, nuclear or other industries in which MMCs have potential and actual applications;
  • Supply raw materials (e.g., ingot, powders, fibers) to producers of MMCs;
  • Supply processing and characterization equipment (e.g., compaction presses, induction melters, analytical equipment) to producers and users of MMCs;
  • Provide technical or management consulting services to the industry.



Covered in this report are all classes of metal matrix composites, including particle-, whisker-, and fiber-reinforced aluminum, titanium, beryllium, nickel, tungsten, etc. The study considers a broad range of commercial and military applications for these composite materials, including components used in the automotive, aerospace, electronics/thermal management, sporting goods, nuclear and electrical power generation, and other industries.

It should be noted that two types of composites -- cemented carbides such as cobalt-tungsten carbide and electrical contact materials such as silver-cadmium oxide -- were specifically excluded from this study. While these materials can certainly be classified as metal matrix composites, they have been produced commercially for well over 50 years and have established, mature markets. It was the intent of this study to explore new market opportunities for reinforced metals and alloys that have more recently entered into commercial production.

The report begins with an overview chapter that describes the various classes of MMCs and their properties and also provides a timeline of major events in the industry during the past three decades. In the following chapter, the MMC industry is characterized in detail: producers and their products are identified and significant changes in the industry (departures and entrances into the , company acquisitions, etc.) during the past two decades are reviewed. The chapter concludes with a series of company profiles that detail the activities of most of the major and minor participants in the MMC industry.

The chapter on technology reviews and compares the various manufacturing methods for MMCs, from liquid metal through solid-state processing techniques, including stir casting, pressure and pressureless infiltration, in situ techniques, spray form processing, powder metallurgy methods, and diffusion bonding. A patent analysis that identifies trends in recent MMC-related U.S. patents and leaders in technological innovation concludes the technology chapter.

In the final chapter of the report, the gamut of potential and actual applications for all types of MMCs are discussed in detail and barriers to entry (or further market penetration) are identified for each application. Also presented are the results of the market analysis, including current world markets for MMCs segmented by end-use industry, application and composite material type, and forecasts through 2004.


The data in this report were obtained from both primary and secondary sources. Three approaches were used to obtain primary source data: (1) telephone interviews; (2) written questionnaires; and (3) personal interviews. Secondary sources included relevant technical and trade literature, conference proceedings, company brochures, and annual reports. Also, a thorough search of the U.S. Patent Bibliographic Database from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was conducted.

To obtain primary source information, over 50 questionnaires were sent to industry participants, including representatives of companies that produce, process, and/or use MMCs. Approximately 60% of these surveys were filled out and returned within the time frame of the study. These survey responses were complemented by over 60 substantive telephone interviews as well as a handful of personal interviews conducted at industry meetings and events.

In sum, approximately 100 industry participants provided technical information, opinions about industry issues, and market data in the course of this study. Those contacted included executives, managers, engineers, researchers, and salespeople representing both the production and end-use side of the . Based on data obtained from these individuals and information from secondary sources, BCC has compiled 1999 world markets for MMCs and forecast consumption through 2004.

If a company known to be an important player in the industry was unwilling or unable to provide data for the study, BCC used available information and other data to make an educated estimate of that particular company's level of involvement (in terms of MMC production or consumption). In some cases, data from end users provided a "check" of the production statistics claimed by MMC manufacturers. It should be noted that, to protect the confidentiality of those companies that provided production/consumption statistics in the course of this study, BCC has agreed not to publish data from individual companies. For this same reason, BCC has opted also not to disclose the names of the participants in the survey.


Mindy N. Rittner, Ph.D., the author of this report, has a broad base of experience in experimental materials processing and technical-market research. She has conducted technical-economic analyses of various segments of the materials industry and serves as the editor of BCC's monthly newsletter Nanoparticle News. Previously, the author worked at Argonne National Laboratory conducting experimental research on nanostructured materials that culminated in a dozen technical publications and a U.S. patent. Rittner earned her Ph.D. from the Department of Materials Science at Northwestern University.

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