Composites in boat and shipbuilding

North America and Asia ensure market growth

CE_Insights_MarineSchiffbau_180806.jpg

Powerboats, cruise vessels and sailing yachts: maritime applications are a small but steadily growing segment for composites. The by far biggest market offering the best growth prospects for composite applications in shipbuilding is North America. This is where most powerboats and sailing yachts are built. This is also where the most extensive development efforts are undertaken. Composite applications in boat and shipbuilding are also in focus at COMPOSITES EUROPE.

How GFP and CFRP can be used for boat and shipbuilding will be demonstrated at the trade fair by Biesterfeld Spezialchemie, ELANDAS EUROPE, HUFSCHMIED Zerspanungssysteme, and KauPo Plankenhorn, to name but a few. Reichenbacher GAMUEL and SAERTEX will also be showcasing their composites solutions for this application at COMPOSITES EUROPE.

Asia Pacific boosts demand for composites

Apart from North America there is also a modern shipbuilding industry developing in Asia Pacific offering outstanding prospects for composites and boosting demand for the relevant materials. This is made reference to by the study “Marine Composite Market – Segmented by Type, Application, and Geography – Growth, Trends, and Forecast (2018 - 2023)” published by Indian market researchers at Mordor Intelligence. By their accounts, China, India and South Korea are the countries where especially high growth rates can be expected.

A market report by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants[1] forecasts slow yet steady growth of approx. 3% for GFP by 2020. For CFRP this “Composites-Marktbericht”[2] even expects demand to double from currently 1,400 tonnes to 3,100 tonnes. CFRP as a high-strength material used to reduce weight on the one hand, and give vessels visual and tactile appeal, on the other, is booming, especially in the segment of high-speed racing boats and super luxury yachts.

US$ 2.6 billion for powerboat manufacturing

According to the study “Marine Composites Market – Global Trends and Forecasts to 2019” drawn up by analysts of “Markets and Markets”, total sales of fibre composites in shipbuilding will amount to roughly US$ 5.0 billion in 2019. Experts feel that the overwhelming percentage (US$ 2.6 billion) will be accounted for by powerboat production. CFRP posts the fastest growth on account of its use in maritime racing while glass fibre is predominantly used for hulls and some superstructures in boat and shipbuilding.

Large components, complex lamination, high flexibility and a low machine involvement – for the majority of applications endless fibres are used and processed almost exclusively in very small series applying open, manual processes such as manual lamination. Here dry fibre pre-pregs are manually introduced into a mould as woven or placed fibres, impregnated with resin and manually cured/hardened with rollers. This consolidation is done at standard pressure and room temperature in some cases but often also at increased temperatures with the help of heatable moulds. Despite these limited mass production possibilities experts expect this craftsmanship-based process to survive in the composites industry.

Components for maritime applications with serial print possible

According to the “Composites-Marktbericht 2017”, components for maritime applications are also manufactured using Resin Transfer Moulding (RTM). This means these components can also be produced in larger series, but cycle times can only be shortened to a limited extent in comparison with other processes. Like in previous years, the segment continues to grow at above-average rates of 3.5% to 146 kilo tonnes.

This volume is largely accounted for by “classical” RTM processes and does not include the amount of GFP manufactured by infusion moulding. A precise identification of production volumes is currently not possible. It can be assumed though that to the tune of 300,000 tonnes are produced across Europe. Roughly 50% of these relatively high volumes are used predominantly for the construction of wind power stations. A second important sector is the marine sector.

[1] Published in 2013

[2] Composites-Marktbericht 2015