Composites: Resins, Fillers, Reinforcements, Natural Fibers & Nanocomposites
The North American fiber-reinforced plastic/composite market is estimated at 2.7 billion pounds in 2010 and is expected to increase to about 3.1 billion by 2015, reflecting a 2.8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This report covers usage of both thermosets and thermoplastics that use fillers and 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 many nontechnical sources often do not 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, and kaolins. Talcs, mica, silicas, and wollastonite are treated as non-fibrous reinforcements. Fibrous reinforcements will include all glass fiber variants, carbon, boron, ceramic, aramid, and stainless steel fibers, and so forth. The major exception will be nanocomposites, which are based on fillers and will be included in the study. There have been quite a few lengthy reports based solely on composites.
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 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 unless specifically designated by suppliers or in the trade literature as one or the other. In other instances, the term “reinforced plastics/composites” will be used.
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. 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.
Furthermore, the volumes of product shown in the tables refer only to the estimated weight of the resins and exclude weights of reinforcements. The quantitative information contained in all data tables refers to the North American market, although there will be a great deal of information provided for the global market.
Applications covered will include: automotive; construction/infrastructure including anti-corrosion and panel products; marine markets; aerospace; electronic parts/components; appliances; consumer products (sport and leisure, lawn/garden products, etc.); and a miscellaneous category including the power market, wind energy products, medical, and others.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Research analyst Mel Schlechter has more than 40 years of experience in the chemical industry and specializes in plastics market research. He has been with BCC Research for more than a decade and holds a B.S. in chemistry, M.S. in organic chemistry, and a M.B.A. in marketing.
The U.S. market for composites increased from 2.7 billion pounds in 2006 to an estimated 2.8 billion pounds in 2007. It should reach over 3.3 billion by 2012, a compound annual growth rate of 3.3%.
Construction/Infrastructure and automotive products are the key applications since they comprise about 60% of total volume, followed by marine, electronic components and consumer products.
The largest growth will be experienced by the low volume aerospace market led by the introduction of composite commercial aircraft exterior parts such as fuselages and wings.
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.