Developing parts with hybrid composites will open new markets for composites and would create good collaboration between metal and composites suppliers for ample participation. For example, Lamborghini has recently developed a hybrid chassis made up of aluminum and carbon composites, which offers 50 percent more torsional rigidity and 10 percent lower weight than its counterpart. Similarly there could be many opportunities in the construction, automotive and pipe and tank markets, where hybrid parts made with steel or aluminum with composites could offer better value proposition to customers. There are many opportunities where current market penetration of composites is less than 3 percent. One big opportunity is the rebar market, which is globally a $235 billion opportunity. Composites rebar market penetration is less than 0.5 percent of the total opportunity.
The top three industry segments in 2014 were transportation, construction and pipe and tank. What do you predict will be the top three industry segments by the end of 2015?
Transportation, construction and pipe and tank are likely to remain the largest application segments in the U.S. composites market in 2015, which collectively represent about 70 percent of the market.
What do you see as the biggest hindrance to composites growth, and how can the industry combat it?
There are many challenges in the composites industry. Some of them are:
- Lack of Repairing and Recyclability: Lucintel noticed significant efforts in composites recycling and repairing in recent years.
- Lack of Materials Standardization: Steel and aluminum follow materials standardization, which allows buyers to avoid materials and parts sole sourcing, help keep manufacturing costs low and develop a robust supply chain. The composites industry, especially carbon fiber, needs to follow the same model for better industrialization and rapid growth.
- Lack of Government Funding: Steel and aluminum industries have a long history of success due to continuous support by the government for developing a robust supply chain and becoming strong pillars for the nation’s economic growth. The composites industry requires similar investments from government for fueling the growth of composites and to build robust infrastructure and training facilities for composites.
- High Cost of Composites Parts: Composite materials in general have higher material and part cost than steel and aluminum. Significant efforts on innovations are needed to reduce the cost of materials and parts.
- High Cycle Time (Part Fabrication Process): Cycle time of composites parts is dependent on various parameters, such as resin type, manufacturing process and level of automation. Currently, most composites processes have high cycle time compared to steel and aluminum processes and thus are not suitable for economical production of high volume parts.