Working together, the roadmap can be implemented to grow composites manufacturing industry in the U.S. and use composites materials to meet and exceed national objectives for energy, fuel efficiency and performance.
Industry surveys conducted by the FIBERS Consortium in 2014 and 2015 identified two sectors as offering the greatest growth opportunities for composites: automotive and infrastructure. The aerospace sector is anticipated to lead composites with the highest penetration.
Automotive – Growth will require widespread use of automation to meet the high-volume, low-cost
requirements of the auto industry and will drive the increased use of modeling of composite manufacturing processes to design and tune these processes. The development of low-cost carbon fiber is one of the major requirements to realizing the maximum benefit of weight reductions. Weight reductions on the order of 40 percent over today’s metal-structure vehicles are possible through the combination of composites and the resulting weight drop of the mechanical systems used on the car. Automation and cycle-time production under 2 minutes will require R&D into new quick-curing resins and forming processes.
Infrastructure – Similar to the large turbine blades in the wind energy sector, composites in infrastructure require the materials to come at a low cost per unit weight and exhibit a long service life. The size and scale of these composite structures, including bridges and roads, require resins with cure times that allow time for fully wetting the part, which is in contrast to the fast cure needed by the auto industry.
Aerospace – Aerospace has been a leader in the use, processing and advancement of composite materials. This very high penetration of composites use is anticipated to continue. Together with the military sector, these composites will continue to set the bar for performance. The higher-cost applications of aerospace materials are critical for pushing the envelope in performance and new processes, which will enable technologies to migrate to sectors that are constrained by lower cost requirements.
While the marine, wind, and sports and recreation sectors can continue to grow, it is not anticipated that growth in these sectors will be as significant. However, all sectors should benefit from the advancements in materials, processing, automation, modeling and workforce development that will be led by the auto, infrastructure and aerospace markets.
If you would like to learn more, meet the FIBERS team at CAMX in booth H95 in the University Pavilion. The team also will present findings from the industry roadmap project at an educational session on September 28. If you would like to become involved, the FIBERS team is organizing several demonstration projects and initiatives to seed the technical advancements that will help expand the composites industry. Connect with the project team online at www.uml.edu/fibers or email firstname.lastname@example.org.