As innovative new production technologies lower carbon fiber cost, the global market for carbon fiber reinforced plastics, or CFRPs, will more than double to US$36 bln in 2020, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 13% from US$14.6 bln in 2012, according to a Lux Research report. Polyolefin-precursor carbon fiber, combined with alternative thermal treatment mechanisms, will reduce cost from a baseline of US$21.2/kg today to US$10.5/kg at pilot-line scale in 2017, driving greater adoption across newer industries such as pressure vessels, marine, consumer electronics, construction, tooling, and medical. “Aerospace and wind will duke it out for supremacy, while potentially high-volume automotive uses advance at a pedestrian pace,” said Ross Kozarsky, Lux Research Senior Analyst and the lead author of the report. Among their findings:
Cutting precursor costs is critical. The industry’s best shot at achieving the carbon fiber price reduction necessary for high-volume applications like automotive is the employment of polyolefin-precursor carbon fiber, combined with combined with plasma oxidation and carbonization.
Fair winds for CFRP offshore. The trend in wind energy towards turbines blades over 40 m long will open up new opportunities for CFRP where other composites can’t compete – and will come sooner and faster in offshore wind than in onshore.
Increasing partnerships between material developers and end users. The value of CFRPs lies in lightweighting, part consolidation, lower maintenance costs and reduced material usage. Consequently, partnerships are critical to ensure material developers integrate final parts into end user systems.