A Shift in Manufacturing Processes

In the U.S. composites industry, fabrication processes have long included hand lay-up, spray-up and filament winding. Currently, there is big shift taking place as many manufacturers are transitioning from these open molding processes to closed molding, such as resin transfer molding (RTM), compression molding and vacuum infusion processing.

Manufacturing Process Fiber Length vs. Cycle Time vs. Part Complexity

Source: Lucintel

The fabrication method is typically dictated by volume or the shape and size of the composite part. Compression molding, injection molding and RTM are the preferred manufacturing processes for mass volume applications, whereas hand lay-up and vacuum assisted RTM are preferred for applications requiring less than 1,000 parts annually. Filament winding, roll wrapping and centrifugal casting are ideal for making tubular parts.

The graph to the left shows how fiber length, cycle time and part complexity also converge to affect selection of a fabrication process.

Market Segment Trends

US Composite Materials Demand Forecast 2015-2021

Source: Lucintel

Transportation, construction and aerospace were the largest market segments within the composites industry in 2015, representing 62 percent of its total value. The growth of composite materials in newer airplanes such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus 350 and 380, has played a part in aerospace overtaking the pipe and tank market in the top three last year. The chart to the left provides forecasts for several composites market segments from 2015 to 2021 in terms of billions of dollars shipped. Out of all markets listed, aerospace has the highest potential for growth, with a CAGR of 9.5 percent over the next six years.

Now let’s take a closer look at five markets.