After attending CAMX’s packed keynote address, Marcio Sandri of Owens Corning sat down with Composites Manufacturing magazine to share his thoughts on fiberglass, the future of the industry and more. Sandri is vice president and managing director of glass reinforcements for Owens Corning’s Composite Solutions Business.
Q: In a recent report, market research firm Lucintel forecast the global glass fiber market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.4 percent between now and 2020. What do you think is driving growth?
A: The main driver comes from organic growth of some key applications in composites. The industry has done a good job in getting composite parts approved for the automotive industry. We know that composites are doing extremely well in power and energy, consumer goods and industrial. The second factor – and one I consider even more important to growth – is the penetration of composites into new applications. There are always new opportunities.
Q: What are some of those new opportunities?
A: I have two examples. The first is composite pallets, which represent a huge opportunity for our industry. When you think historically of where composites have succeeded easily, it’s against wood. Here’s an application that is almost 100 percent wood, and there are billions of pallets around the world being made every year. We have been partnering with other players in the marketplace trying to incentivize people to make the conversion from wood.
The second example has to do with automotive. The industry has to reduce weight, reduce CO2 emissions and be more efficient. Composites are the perfect fit. But we have to go one step further. We have been successful in penetrating non-structural applications. The opportunity lies in semi-structural and structural applications. That’s where we’re putting some of our money and resources.
Q: What overall trends do you see in the fiberglass reinforcement market?
A: To match industry opportunities, we have to make products with advanced performance that [enhance] mechanical and structural properties….Today’s fiberglass can only do so much. So we need to make improvements to existing products, and then consider what will be the next generation. There is a big space between today’s glass reinforcements and carbon and other high-performance reinforcements. There is a great opportunity for us between the two.
Q: There’s a lot of hype now about carbon fiber, and it clearly has benefits. As an executive of a glass fiber provider, what do you tell people about your place in the market?
A: I see it positively. First, the journey of selling composites to the material industry takes some steps, resources and support. So someone else succeeding – even though it’s a competitor material – can only help us achieve more. This is what I call having a stronger value chain. At the end of the day, the final product is made of composites, and we are all part of the composites industry. Second, as a glass fiber manufacturer, I see our main opportunity in the white space between existing glass reinforcements and high-performance reinforcements. So for us it’s important to understand the new reinforcements and see how we can combine together, either via hybrid materials or via understanding the strengths of one side that can be brought to the other side and vice versa. Even if we’re a little jealous of the hype, we have to take advantage of the opportunity in front of us.
Q: What are some of the more innovative applications using GFRP that you’ve seen recently?
A: We’ve worked on some innovative parts in the electrical/electronics market with smart phone and computer manufacturers who are making very specific parts that improve the overall mechanical performance of their products. We’ve also been partnering with the automotive industry to develop low-density SMC material which allows them to penetrate applications they could not before.
Q: What new products is Owens-Corning introducing at CAMX?
A: We are launching a new pultrusion material called PulStrand™ 4100. As the pultrusion market grows, you have to rely on materials that allow you to run pultrusion machines at higher speeds with better performance. Our new material delivers both. PulStrand 4100 also allows you to work with higher fiber volumes, which has two consequences. You can reduce costs and increase mechanical properties.
Q: Why is CAMX a must-attend event for you?
A: First and foremost is our commitment to the industry. Second is because we want to make the composites value chain stronger. Being at this kind of event where everyone gets together and has a chance to discuss some of the opportunities as well as the challenges is beneficial to the future of composites and, by consequence, the future of Owens Corning.