Therefore, a considerable amount of research is being done to develop low-cost carbon fibers compatible with thermoplastic resin systems, due to the processing speed and recycling advantages intrinsic to these materials. If low-cost thermoplastic CFRP systems can deliver mechanical and physical properties approaching what can be achieved with epoxy, they are likely to be successful. This is not a trivial task, but the result of these efforts will determine the future growth trajectory of carbon fiber composites in the automotive industry.

Percentage of Vehicle Unibody Mass by Material from 1995-2015

Source: Industrial Market Insight

Due to changes in the regulatory environment, the current decade represents the greatest opportunity in 40 years for new materials to break into mass-produced automobiles. Composites will certainly benefit, and robust annual growth of composites is expected for the next several years. In the short-term, it is likely that thermoset resins will enjoy growth in body applications. To fully meet higher growth expectations over the long term, considerable technical hurdles must be overcome in both composite materials and processing, and thermoplastic composites are likely to play a large role.

The European Market

By Roberto Frassine, Chair of the EuCIA, the European Composites Industry Association, with contributions from Composites Germany

Europe’s production volume in glass fiber reinforced polymers is continuing its slow-but-steady growth at a rate of about 2.5 percent per year. Having reached 1.07 million tons in 2015, the production volume is now at its highest level in eight years. The European GFRP volume, however, is growing slower than the global composites industry and also slower than fiber reinforced thermoplastics in Europe.