Composites: Resins, Filler, Reinforcements, Natural Fibers and Nanocomposites

Published - Aug 2002| Analyst - Melvin Schlechter| Code - PLS029A
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Report Highlights

  • The fiber-reinforced plastic market is estimated at almost 2.3 billion pounds in 2002 and, rising at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 3%, is expected to reach 2.64 billion pounds by 2007.
  • Automotive applications account for 719 million pounds and are expected to rise at an AAGR of 2.5% to 814 million pounds by 2007.
  • Construction applications will rise at an AAGR of 2.7% to 688 million pounds by 2007.
  • Marine and electronic components applications, rising at AAGRs of 3.5% and 4.5% respectively, are the fastest growing.
  • Thermosets accounted for about 62% of total volume in 2002 and will maintain that position over the next five years.
  • Nanocomposites are in the very early stages of development and, with regard to fiber-reinforced plastics, initially will make an impact in the automotive market.


INTRODUCTION

REASONS FOR DOING THE STUDY

The emergence of several new technologies warrants a reappraisal of the reinforced plastics market. Nanocomposites and long-fiber-reinforced thermoplastics are the two most prominent and potentially commercially important examples that could impact this market.

In addition, a review of reinforced plastics is needed with a view towards appropriately segmenting the major components of this market into its resin, technology and applications components. Fillers and reinforcements need to be carefully defined as to their principal functions and effects on properties of substrate resins since many terms and market estimates used within this industry are not clear-cut.

SCOPE OF THE STUDY

This report covers usage of both thermosets and thermoplastics that use reinforcements to increase their respective property profiles. Fillers will be differentiated from reinforcements, which, in turn, will include both fibrous and non-fibrous variants.

The term "fillers/reinforcements" will be used when generally referring to these materials as in most literature references mainly because most non-technical sources rarely distinguish fillers from reinforcements. For the purposes of this report the following are defined as fillers and not reinforcements: aluminum trihydrate (ATH), barium sulfate, calcium carbonate, kaolin, talc, mica, organic and conductive fillers. Reinforcements will include the fibrous materials such as all glass fiber variants, carbon, boron, ceramic, aramid, and stainless steel fibers, etc. The major exception will be nanocomposites, which are based on fillers and will be included in the study.

A basic premise in distinguishing between a "filler" and a "reinforcement" is whether the primary function of the material is used to enhance property profiles of substrate resins. If the answer is "yes" then it can be considered as a "reinforcement." This definition is, of course, arbitrary, especially since in many cases mineral "fillers" are used in conjunction with fibrous materials, most notably glass.

Another source of confusion is the constant overlapping of the terms "reinforced plastics" and "composites." One distinction between these two terms, cited by some within the industry, is that the latter refers to those reinforced resins that can "support a load" or are "structurally reinforced." This definition is also arbitrary. Therefore, in this report, the terms "reinforced plastics" and "composites" will be used interchangeably.

Current and forecasted quantitative market estimates will be provided for all appropriate thermoset and thermoplastic fiber-reinforced resins by application along with detailed descriptions of the major types of reinforcements including mica, wollastonite, glass, carbon fibers, aramid, etc. Fillers will be discussed in detail, as well, but will not be considered in the quantitative analysis of reinforced plastics/composites. It should also be pointed out that many compounded resin formulations contain both fillers and reinforcements and many glass fiber reinforced resins contain other fibrous and non-fibrous minerals.

Applications covered will include aerospace, appliances, automotive, construction, electronic, consumer (sport and leisure, lawn/garden products, etc.), corrosion, marine, and a miscellaneous category including non-automotive/aerospace transportation, power market, medical, etc.

METHODOLOGY

A comprehensive review and analysis was undertaken of literature related to this industry which is known by several names, e.g. reinforced plastics, composites, etc. This analysis included, resins, applications, markets, technology, producers and suppliers, trade named products, new developments, environmental issues, etc.

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