Composites are gaining acceptance in various markets to meet a wide range of requirements such as mechanical properties and high reliability at extreme environmental conditions. As the aerospace and automotive industry continue to pursue fuel efficiency and safety, composites will play an important role by delivering higher strength-to-weight ratios, new design flexibilities, high resistance to fatigue and corrosion resistance.
The commercial aerospace market continues to be the leading industry for composites in the aerospace and defense sector. Two long-awaited, composites-intensive commercial jetliners – the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350 – provide heightened expectations for near-term business opportunities among composites stakeholders. The use of composites in such aircraft and their effectiveness should set examples for the future use of composites in some lower penetrated applications such as fuselage, wing skins and ribs, stabilizers, control surfaces, interiors and engine components.
In the automotive industry, uses are being developed for composite materials in automotive and motorcycle components production. Automotive parts, such as bumper beams, door modules, roofs, instrument panels, underbody systems, seating structures and interior headliners, benefit from fabrication with composites materials for durability, strength and weight advantages, in addition to resisting heat and corrosion. To meet the CAFE requirement of 36.6 mpg by 2017, composites material suppliers and part fabricators need to work closely with OEMs to develop new composite applications for various vehicle programs in the areas of transmissions, drive shafts, engines, suspension systems and body parts. Light weighting of vehicle parts helps in increasing fuel efficiency and in reducing carbon emissions. OEMs are serious about composites potentials and recently GM, BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen made joint ventures with various carbon fiber suppliers.
In the high-pressure tank market, Luxfer, Dynetek and Ragasco are some of the key manufacturers for composites tanks using carbon and glass fiber. Compressed natural gas (CNG) tanks are one of the best potential markets over the next 10 years driven by strong growth of natural gas vehicles. In the last five years, growth in new natural gas vehicles was more than 20 percent, and it is expected to grow at the same rate for the next few years.
With composites meeting some medical requirements, their applications have made good inroads in the medical sector worldwide. Light weight, complex configurations and the advantages of seamless artificial limbs and equipment for medical diagnosis were the main driving factors in the development of composites medical structures.
Composite materials in the electrical and electronics segment can potentially reduce fabrication and maintenance costs, enhance styling and reduce weight. The use of electronics such as laptops and smartphones is significantly increasing driven by increasing per capita income and consumer spending. Potential electrical and electronics applications for composite materials include laptop housings, mobile phone housings, PCBs, switchgear frames and many more.