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Demand growth in USA lower than global demand for carbon fibers, CFRP- projected to grow at over 15%

Demand growth in USA lower than global demand for carbon fibers, CFRP- projected to grow at over 15%

Global carbon fiber market is likely to demand 141,000 mt of fiber annually by 2020 as the composites market reaches 210,000 mt. Global volume demand for CFRP, estimated at around 67000 mt in 2012, is expected to maintain a 2012-2020 CAGR of 15.3% to reach 210,000 mt by 2020, as per Research and Markets. In terms of value, demand for CFRP, estimated at US$10.25 bln in 2012 is expected to record a CAGR of 11.9% over 2012-2020 in reaching US$25.2 bln by 2020. In tandem with the CFRP market, global demand for carbon fibers in terms of volume, estimated at 45,000 mt in 2012 and forecast to be 51700 mt in 2013, is further projected to reach 141000 mt by 2020, registering a 2012-2020 CAGR of 15.4%. In terms of value, consumption of carbon fibers globally is estimated to stand at US$2.03 bln in 2012 and projected to reach around US$5 bln by 2020. Carbon fibers have gained an immense importance in a range of applications in industrial sectors. According to the report, the global market for carbon fibers and carbon fiber composites is mainly driven by the wind energy, aerospace and defense, and sports and leisure sectors, which are estimated to consume 11,300 metric tons, 9,400 metric tons and 8,300 metric tons, respectively, by the end of 2013. Global volume demand for CFRP, estimated at around 67,000 mt in 2012, is expected to maintain a 2012-2020 CAGR of 15.3% to reach 210,000 mt by 2020. In terms of value, demand for CFRP, estimated at US$10.25 bln in 2012 is expected to record a CAGR of 11.9% over 2012-2020 as it reaches US$25.2 bln by 2020. In tandem with the CFRP market, global demand for carbon fibers in terms of volume, estimated at 45,000 m tons in 2012 and forecast to be 51,000 m tons in 2013, is further projected to reach 141,000 m tons by 2020, registering a 2012-2020 CAGR of 15.4%. In terms of value, consumption of carbon fibers globally is estimated to stand at US$2.03 bln in 2012 and projected to reach around US$5 bln by 2020.
Surface transportation has been immensely influenced by volatile oil prices and an increasing human contribution to global warming and environmental pollution, with demand for fuel efficient vehicles taking center stage. Automobile manufacturers are seriously viewing the option of cutting down vehicle weight by the use of innovative materials, such as carbon fiber composites in low-cost mass production cars. However, this segment is expected to record less than anticipated growth, when compared to the mid-priced automobile category. Utilization of carbon fibers has hitherto been the prerogative in very high-end cars for justifying the high material cost, though this scenario has witnessed some change. Carbon fibers, weighing about one-fifth as much as steel even while being comparable or better in stiffness and strength based on fiber grade and orientation, have caught the fancy of automakers. Composites manufactured using carbon fibers are rustproof and corrosion-free, as against steel or aluminum. They also enable in reducing vehicle weight by 50-70%, which results in enhancing fuel economy. Also, high-strength carbon fibers make the vehicle safer in occasions of severe crashes. In general, the firm establishment of composites and associated technologies in the automobile industry has to take several other factors into account. These include requirement of cycle time and cost abatement, as well as composites that deliver superior performance. If such factors are put in place, it is anticipated that carbon composites would be regular features of mainstream automobiles by 2030. This is very much in congruity with plug-in cars, such as the Toyota hybrid Prius, developed in 2006 that just requires to be plugged into a regular household power socket for recharging. Nissan, Chevrolet, Ford and Mitsubishi have since then been instrumental in developing plug-in models, and researchers are of the opinion that by 2050, gasoline engines would be replaced by stronger batteries, lightweight carbon fiber components and mass production of electric cars. The automotive industry currently employs carbon fibers in chassis, spoilers, propeller shafts, roofs and external parts, though the same are exclusively used for racing cars and high-end luxury models. On the other hand, Mercedes, Ford, General Motors and BMW, to name a few, have initiated steps to enhance the use of carbon fibers in vehicle manufacture, thereby reducing vehicle weight, improving fuel consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, using carbon fibers enables in decreasing total number of vehicle parts, thereby speeding up the manufacturing process with greater flexibility and less cost.

Chris Red in Composites Technology sheds more light on demand for automotive CFRP. Carbon Fibre is not expected to find application in every car during the next 10 to 15 years. New vehicle applications appear to be limited by processing speed and costs, with most opportunities in applications serving models produced at volumes of less than 40,000 vehicles per year and sold at a price in excess of US$60,000. Global passenger-vehicle and light-truck production currently totals about 63 mln units annually. Of this total, luxury autos account for about 9%. Making up these 6 mln cars are approximately 210 models, representing a wide array of body styles and layouts, including compact coupes and sedans, midsize vehicles, large passenger vehicles, luxury trucks, and SUVs and CUVs. Somewhat surprisingly, about 100 current or anticipated new models make some use of CFRP - nearly 4 times as many as 10 years ago. Based on available information about these vehicles and some more moderately priced sports cars and SUVs that also will incorporate CFRP, Composites Technology estimates that the total weight of CFRP components will grow from 7,486 metric tons in 2013 to 16,334 metric tons in 2016. After factoring in the CFRP applications that auto OEMs have announced for the next three years, anticipated or “potential new models” over the following seven years and notional accounting of a small number of “unaccounted supercars” and “unaccounted luxury sedans”, by 2022 the total weight of carbon composites going into cars annually could exceed 453,600 m tons. This indicates that CFRP manufacturing will grow dramatically and will augment expanding opportunities for other composites and lightweight metals. To support the manufacture of 45,360 m tons of finished CFRP parts, the automotive supply chain will require nearly 39,225 m tons of raw carbon fiber. Today the auto industry (including race car teams and aftermarket accessory vendors) consumes about 3.5% of the global carbon fiber production capacity. According to this outlook, by 2022, that could grow to nearly 25%.

As per Composites Forecasts and Consulting, it is estimated that in 2013, nearly 2.25 million individual composite components will have been fabricated and delivered to OEMs. These components are in production at 35 companies around the world, with about 70 percent of the volume coming out of Europe.

Composite components are included in virtually all facets of a vehicle’s design, including:

  • Chassis members
  • Body panels and exterior accessories
  • Structural and cosmetic interiors
  • Suspension
  • Vehicle drivetrain, exhaust and engine bay cosmetic pieces
  • Brake system
  • Fuel components
  • Wheels and other components

Suppliers that build chassis, body panel, brake rotor and driveshaft components are currently the largest consumers of CFRP materials and will continue to drive growth over the forecast period. Combined, these components account for 87% of the identified component volumes and 95% of the identified delivered material weight. The Composites Forecasts and Consulting report noted, however, that current improvements in vehicle drive trains and aerodynamics, as well as weight reduction, will not be enough to meet the 2025 emissions targets, which opens the potential for some of the other application sectors previously listed. Composite seating also seems to be an application with considerable potential, and suspension components appear to be a near-term target, including leaf and coil springs. Further, other suspension components, including sway bars and suspension arms and frames, could be supported with existing filament winding and resin transfer molding (RTM) processing techniques, cutting by two-thirds the weight of these components compared to today’s metal versions. OEM use of these emerging components is expected to grow about 600% over the forecast period, and they present many additional opportunities for aftermarket suppliers.

As per Freedonia, US demand for fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) composites is forecast to climb 4.7% pa to 4.3 bln lbs in 2017, valued at nearly US$23 bln. Demand will rebound from the moderate declines experienced over the course of the recession-impacted 2007-2012 period, when opportunities were restricted by a steep drop in construction activity, reduced motor vehicle output, and the collapse of the recreational boating market. These markets are anticipated to see renewed growth as economic conditions improve. In addition, FRP composites will continue to supplant conventional materials such as aluminum and steel due to a number of performance advantages, including light weight, stiffness, and corrosion resistance, as well as greater design flexibility and improved parts consolidation capabilities. However, advances will be threatened by saturated applications in many areas and the higher cost of FRPs compared to metal in long production runs. Motor vehicles and construction represent the leading outlets for FRP composites and will provide the best opportunities for growth through 2017, spurred by an improving outlook for vehicle output and a strong rebound in building construction activity. Together, these two markets will account for more than three-quarters of new demand for FRP composites through 2017. Ongoing efforts among automakers to enhance fuel efficiency will continue to drive composites demand as vehicle weight reduction -- which represents a key strategy utilized by OEMs to boost fuel economy -- is often accomplished through the use of lightweight composite materials. Advances in the construction sector will be propelled by rapid spending increases in the residential sector, which will generate demand for a variety of products, including fiberglass bathroom components and entry doors. Prospects will also be bright in the small volume aerospace sector, driven by the expanding utilization of carbon fiber composites in the production of commercial airliners such as Boeing’s 787 DREAMLINER, which has more than 50% composite content. Rising consumer spending levels will bode well for composites used in the production of marine and consumer durables products. However, opportunities in the sizable electrical and electronics sector will be more limited, restricted by an anticipated decline in wind turbine installations from elevated 2012 levels, and by the dominance of offshore producers of computers, printers, and other electrical and electronic equipment.

Carbon fibers have gained an immense importance in a range of applications in industrial sectors such as wind energy, automotive, civil engineering, pressure vessels as well as in aerospace & military, motor sports and other sporting goods because of their superior characteristics like enhanced stiffness & tensile strength, low weight, improved chemical resistance & temperature tolerance and low thermal expansion. The industries, having the high growth potential for carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) and intern carbon fibers in the near future include automotive, wind energy, aerospace & defense, offshore oil & gas applications and composite pressure vessels among others.
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