The market share of composites based on natural fibers is currently about 1 percent of the total GFRP market (92,000 tons) and approximately the same size as that of carbon fibers (102,000 tons). The total volume of the European composites market – including glass and carbon fibers, thermoplastic and thermoset matrices, wood and natural fibers – is about 2.5 million tons.
Composites growth is greatest in two market segments – transportation and construction. However, the situation differs from one country to another: Germany and some eastern European countries recorded above-average growth. In southern Europe, the growth is less pronounced, while in Scandinavia there’s been a downturn.
The processing methods witnessing the highest development rate are resin transfer molding (RTM) and glass mat thermoplastics (GMT)/long fiber-reinforced thermoplastics (LFT.) In addition, thermoplastic applications are increasing significantly, especially in the automotive sector.
The primary challenges to the composites industry in Europe derive from unfair competition practices, qualification of workers, European Union (EU) regulations and manufacturing innovation toward shorter cycle times. There also is a need to better communicate to the EU citizens the high value of our materials not only in terms of performance, but also in terms of environmental protection, which is a very hot topic inside the European Commission.
EuCIA has been actively working on waste topics (specifically, how composites are classified in the Waste Framework Directive) and on the impact of chemicals used for composites production within the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation of the European Union, officially adopted to improve the protection of human health and the environment.