Composites professionals representing the industry’s full range of market segments came to Las Vegas with specific goals and challenges in mind. In doing so, they faced the industry’s backdrop — economic challenges and regulatory hardship — with energy and a sense of camaraderie.

Thanks to the wide variety of education, networking and innovation on display at COMPOSITES 2012, they left Las Vegas with solutions and ideas that can help them grow their businesses.

The premier event of its kind in North America drew nearly 3,400 attendees, up more than 12 percent from last year. All of them had one-stop access to new opportunities, decision makers, experts, vendors and customers representing all segments of the composites industry. Now that it’s ended, here are seven take-away concepts that encapsulate what happened — and what can happen next:

1. Composites are ever-present in business and life, and savvy industry firms are competing successfully against competing materials.

Many attendees and exhibitors entered new markets and diversified their product lines since COMPOSITES 2011. This year’s show was created with those folks in mind, and was filled with new education about growth markets and opportunities such as wind energy, infrastructure, international business and more.

COMPOSITES 2012 confirmed that composites are integral and critical in many markets. Speaker John Unser, process control engineer for Global Purchasing, Nonmetallics at Caterpillar Inc., said the goal of his group is to double the use of composites materials over the next few years.

“Go out there and tell the world why composites are better than steel and aluminum and other materials,” said NASCAR legend and ESPN/ABC Sports commentator Rusty Wallace during the COMPOSITES 2012 keynote address. “Use your association as the focal point and spread the word.”

2. Indicators point to a positive future for the composites industry.

By 2017, the composite materials industry is expected to reach nearly $30 billion and end products made with composites should hit $85 billion, according to Chuck Kazmierski, program manager at Lucintel, a global market research and consulting company. Kazmierski spoke during a General Session at COMPOSITES 2012 about the latest market statistics and trends. He focused on the automotive segment and anticipates the globalautomotive composite materials market will increase 7 percent by 2017 with carbon fiber use remaining limited to premium cars, though. Wind energy also continues to be a burgeoning niche, experiencing double digit growth during the past decade.

To boost knowledge among attendees, COMPOSITES 2012 included more than 100 education sessions and peer-reviewed technical papers.