US demand to grow 15% annually through 2016
US demand for high performance composites-- polymer materials containing advanced fiber reinforcements -- is forecast to grow 15 percent per year to$10.3 billion in 2016. Advances will represent a considerable improvement over the pedestrian growth of the 2006-2011 period, during which time composite demand was hampered by a weak aerospace market and declines in military applications. Going forward, highperformance composite demand will be aided by strong growth in the commercial airliner market, as well as emerging opportunities in applications such as wind turbines and pressure vessels. However,the high cost and labor-intensive productionof advanced composites compared to competitive materials will prevent these materials from penetrating more high volumeand price-sensitive applications.
High performance composites are highstrength, high stiffness materials that feature lighter weight and better durability than aluminum and other metals. Historically, these composites have been confined to military uses and high-endsporting goods due to their much higher prices compared to conventional glassfibercomposites and metals. However,better production processes, the developmentof lower-cost carbon fibers, and a greater focus on lighter-weight componentshave allowed advanced composites to attract more widespread attention.
Aerospace, wind turbine markets to see best growth
Aerospace markets will remain theleading outlet for high performance composites in 2016, and will be by far the fastest-growing market. While composites have long been used in military aircraft and helicopters, they are beginningto penetrate the commercial airlinersegment on a large scale as well. Inparticular, the production ramp up of theBoeing 787 DREAMLINER, which hasmore than 50 percent composite content,will stimulate the bulk of gains in high performance composite demand. Rising production of other composite-intensive aircraft, such as the Airbus A380 andA350 XWB, will also benefit demand.
Outside of the aerospace applications, astrong area of growth for high performance composites is the burgeoning wind energy market. In wind energy, advances will be fueled by rising wind turbine installations as states seek to meet renewable energy generation standards,as well as increased use of carbon fiber composites. Much slower growth is expected for defense and safety applications-- due to reduction of combat forces in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and the highly mature sporting goods market. The motor vehicle market, which holds perhaps the greatest potential for high performance composites, will see only moderate gains in demand, as widescale, large-volume use of automotive composites will continueto be restrained by high cost and slow production speeds.
Carbon fiber composites to remain dominant. Among product types, carbon fiber composites will continue to account for the largest portion of demand, totaling 84percent of the high performance market in 2016. Carbon fiber composites will benefit from robust growth in the aerospace market, as well as their versatility,good balance of mechanical properties,and moderate cost compared with other high performance composites. S-glass fiber composites -- the lowest-priced of all advanced composites -- will also see double-digit gains in demand, fueled by opportunities in aerospace, wind energy,and pressure vessel markets. More moderate gains are forecast for composites based on aramid and other fibers,restrained by the slower-growing defenseand safety composites market.