Resin Innovations: More new product launches in resin will focus on shorter cure time (in the range of one to two minutes) for mass volume applications. Momentive and Huntsman have developed epoxy resin systems with short cycle times for high pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM) and compression molding. In the wind energy segment, resins are being developed with optimum gel time for long wind blades. Throughout the industry, low-cost and high-strength nano-resins will gain traction in future applications, and bio resins are on the uptick to meet growing environmental concerns.

Technology Innovations: Lucintel expects significant innovation mega trends in composite technologies targeting faster cycle times, better product quality, lower capital and lower processing costs. A major technology challenge is to achieve the targeted one- to two-minute cycle time for mass volume automotive applications. That should be addressed in the near future with the advent of technologies such as HP-RTM, compression molding, carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastics (CFRTP), pressure press and forged composites.

Another trend is the development of processes with the combined capabilities of automated fiber placement (AFP) and automated tape laying (ATL) for reduction in capital cost and improved throughput. In addition, recycling techniques for carbon composites are advancing, thereby strengthening life cycle robustness. Finally, notable efforts are expected in the development of better weaving techniques for carbon fiber, addressing the challenge of lower compressive strength for wind blade applications.

Application Innovations: Enhanced applications abound in nearly every segment of the composites industry. Within the automotive industry, the push to create lighter vehicles has led automakers such as BMW, Mercedes, Ford and GM to incorporate carbon composites in mass volume cars. In the wind energy, there is a growing trend toward developing one-piece and modular wind blade technology.

Several innovation mega trends are occurring in aerospace. More carbon composite and nano composite applications will emerge. The Boeing 787 and Airbus 350XWB have incorporated significant composites in structural parts (about 50 percent by weight). Lockheed Martin has committed to replacing approximately 100 composite or metal components with carbon nano-reinforced polymers (CNRP) throughout the F-35’s airframe. CNRP offers up to 30 percent weight reduction at one tenth of the cost of CFRP and has a strength that is several times higher. The aerospace industry also is moving toward more ATL and AFP processes to increase throughput.