Stable market growth for fiberglass-reinforced plastics continues
Glass fibre reinforced plastics (GRP) still account for the lion's share of composites. With a quantity of over 95 percent, they are clearly the dominant material. The corresponding market is now showing stable growth. For the sixth year in succession, the volume of the European market climbed by 2.1 percent year-on-year to a total of 1.141 million tonnes (Sources: AVK / Composites market survey 2018).
"Despite this fundamentally positive development, this total number remains limited in its meaningfulness," it says. "The very strong heterogeneity of the market leads to very different developments within Europe. The high variability of materials, a broad spectrum of different processing methods as well as the continuous development of new fields of application lead in detail to different growth rates both regionally and in terms of applications", the authors state.
While, for example, the so-called open processes such as hand laminating and fiber spraying are growing by only 0.4 percent, the market for thermoplastic systems is growing by almost five percent. According to the experts, this year's regional growth will be above average in the southern European countries, while the processing volume in most northern European manufacturing countries will stagnate. "It is particularly noteworthy that this year there is no European country or group of countries with a decline in production volumes. This also applies to the manufacturing processes. There is currently no minus in production volume for any segment.
Economically important industrial segments are the main area of application
According to the analysis, the two main areas of application for glasfibre reinforced plastics (GFK) remain transport and construction/infrastructure. Fluctuations within these two industrial segments - which are also important from an economic point of view - also lead to fluctuations in the GRP sector, which can again have significantly different effects depending on the regional industrial focus. The experts conclude that "the high overall economic importance of the two main application areas of GRP is one reason why the production volume tends to follow the development of gross domestic product and total industrial production in the long-term view".
Due to the already strong establishment of composites and the high processing volume, no sudden changes in the total production volume are to be expected in the coming years either, according to the authors. Individual projects or individual new applications usually have little influence or are overlaid by developments in other areas of application. "Despite new activities by individual, even larger players, the market continues to be characterized by a large number of small and very small companies, with ten to 20 percent of the companies in many European countries producing 80 to 90 percent of the production volume.
Despite the different developments in the markets for the individual manufacturing processes, the share of the major GRP application industries in Europe remains constant compared with the previous year. One third of the total production volume is produced for transport (36 percent) and one third for construction/infrastructure (35 percent). Other fields of application are the electrical/electronics industry (14 percent) and the sports and leisure industry (14 percent).
The experts expect particular changes in the transport sector, which includes the automotive industry and aviation. For car manufacturers, this period of upheaval also always means the opportunity for new material decisions. In addition to lightweight construction, GRP has many beneficial properties for many segments of the transport sector. Also for electric mobility. The lower weight reduces consumption, regardless of whether it is covered by fossil fuels or electricity. In addition, the materials are not only very durable and low-maintenance, they also neither conduct electricity nor, unlike many metallic materials, hinder data transmission. In addition, some of the materials offer completely new possibilities for function integration and an excellent cost-benefit ratio.
As the demand for GRP increases, its recycling becomes more and more important. Read more about this topic here.