In conclusion, the future healthy growth of the Chinese composites industry will rely more on scientific and technological innovation and product quality improvement, rather than on resources, low-cost labor and an expanding production capacity. New initiatives from the government related to rural area construction, modern agriculture and farming, and 5G communications will expand existing applications and open up new ones for composite materials and structures. Looking ahead, composites have a bright future in China.
Thanks to Changlei Liu of the China Fiberglass Industry Association and Professor Jian Xu of Shenzhen University for contributions to this section.
The European Market
By Elmar Witten, Managing Director
AVK, the German Federation of Reinforced Plastics
After six successive years of modest growth, European GFRP production remained steady in 2019 at a total volume of 1.14 metric tons. The stagnation did not affect all areas equally. Some growth occurred in thermoplastic processes, sheet molding compound (SMC)/bulk molding compound (BMC), resin transfer molding (RTM) and pultrusion. In addition, some eastern European countries and Turkey expected growth in 2019. Overall, glass fiber remained the dominant material by far, used for reinforcement in more than 95% of the total volume of composites. Global demand for CFRP was estimated at 141,500 metric tons in 2019, or 1% to 2% of the market.
The two main market segments for GFRP in Europe remain construction/infrastructure and transportation, each accounting for approximately one-third the total production volume. For the first time in many years, the construction/infrastructure market segment is now a larger consumer of GFRP at 36% of the total European market compared to the transport sector (34%). The two other areas with significant market share in 2019 were electric/electronics at 15% and sports/leisure at 14%.
In recent years, GFRP production has grown more slowly in Europe than in America and Asia. Reasons for this sluggish growth include the migration of certain manufacturing processes and methods, as well as outsourcing of the production of commodities with often low-profit margins. In addition, some specific applications and customer industries, such as automotive, are growing more dynamically in other regions of the world than in Europe.
The automotive sector, one of the central pillars of the composites industry, is now undergoing a massive transformation with changing material requirements, new challenges in drive technology and construction and innovations such as autonomous driving systems. Countries with large export surpluses in this sector, such as Germany, are hardest hit by any slow-down in the market. This affects not only OEMs, but the entire supply chain, including composites fabricators and material suppliers.