When the CAMX 2018 exhibit hall opened on Tuesday, Composites Manufacturing magazine’s Managing Editor Susan Keen Flynn stopped by the Owens Corning booth for a conversation with David Cooper, vice president and managing director of glass reinforcements in the Americas and a member of ACMA’s board of directors. He shared insight on glass fiber, growth in the composites industry and more.

Q: There’s a lot of buzz about carbon fiber, aramid and other high-performance reinforcements. Why is glass fiber still a great option?

A: Glass fiber is not only the primary reinforcement in composites, but one that continues to drive industry innovation and growth. Owens Corning is committed to innovation, looking for improvements that we can bring to glass fiber itself, as well as how our customers process and use it in their end applications.

Q: Can you provide an example of a recent innovation in glass fiber?

A: One of the most exciting advances is the development of 3D printer filaments. The 3D filaments and 3D printed parts that were previously done with unreinforced resins now can use our XSTRAND™ line of fiberglass 3D printer filament to make novel shapes with the strength and performance characteristics customers need. This allows customers to go directly from R&D and pilot facilities to the manufacturing floor.

Q: According to the market research firm Lucintel, the glass fiber market grew by 4 percent in 2017. Do you anticipate growth this year, too?

A: Most definitely! We are seeing industry growth – and sustained industry growth – in all of our key markets. I think it’s a positive sign not just for Owens Corning, but for the composites industry as a whole. It’s also driving high levels of capacity utilization. We see that strong demand environment when we look at forecasts for industrial production and gross domestic product through 2019. We continue to be bullish on the marketplace.

Q: What is driving industry growth?

A: Glass fiber and glass fiber reinforcement demand tracks to a lot of the macroeconomic [trends] seen in the economy – so automobile production, heavy truck demand, housing. All of these macros impact demand for glass fiber. In addition, we’re seeing the ‘substitution effect’ in the marketplace: Glass fiber and composites are starting to be used in applications where traditionally steel, aluminum and wood were used. As our customers continue to find novel applications for composites that substitute traditional materials, the size of the pie grows for everyone.