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Figure 6: Annual Growth Rate of U.S. Composites Consumption in Construction with U.S. Housing Starts 2007-2012 (Source: Lucintel)

The corrosion industry provides great opportunities for manufacturers of composite materials. In the pipe and tank market, composite materials compete with steel, plastic and concrete. In certain applications composites dominate, whereas in other sectors steel, plastic and concrete are more advantageous.

In November 2011, the Obama Administration proposed a five-year plan for offshore oil drilling. The plan promotes offshore drilling to discover new areas in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. According to Baker Hughes Inc., the number of rigs aiming for oil in the U.S. is the highest since 1987. Composites usage in the oil and gas market is still limited but it provides significant opportunity for growth.

Aerospace: Flying High with Boeing 787 and A380

Composite materials are beginning to dominate new aviation and aerospace designs and are much lighter and often even stronger than metal. Composites are an alternative material used to help reduce aircraft fuel and maintenance costs. Lucintel estimates the U.S. market for composite materials in aerospace grew by 9.9 percent in 2012. The new commercial aircraft programs – such as Boeing’s B787 and B747-8 and Airbus’ A380 and A350 – and increased demand of regional and business aircraft customers helped accelerate the growth of composites. Demand for composite materials also has increased because of the growth of rotorcraft for both civil and military markets.

This trend toward more use of composites has been most evident with the introduction of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The Boeing 787 uses composites in 50 percent of the aircraft’s primary structure, which has set a new standard in aircraft design and has encouraged many other OEMs to use a significant amount of composite materials in their new aircraft. The 787 also set a record as the fastest-selling commercial aircraft. The extensive use of composites on the Dreamliner reduces fuel consumption by 20 percent over any other aircraft of its size. Composites usage has also increased in other market segments such as general aviation aircraft and helicopter and alternative structures such as airframes, fuselages and rotor blades.

Composites usage is increasing in interior applications in commercial aircraft such as floor boards, bulkheads and cabin dividers, lavatories, galleys, wall and ceiling panels and stowage bins. Seating and a variety of small brackets, clips, trays, plinths and uses in other structures are increasing where composites reduce weight. Recycled carbon fiber and low-cost carbon fiber with thermoplastic resin are being explored to make aircraft interiors. Several unconventional technologies are emerging that reduce cost and lower cycle time.