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Aerospace sector is the key growth driver as improved fuel efficiencies sought

Stephen Moore

December 19, 2016

2 Min Read
Global CFRP market slated for 12% per annum growth

According to the latest market study released by Technavio, the global carbon fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP) market is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 12% between 2016 and 2020.

Headlining growth is the aerospace sector. Airbus’ Global Market Forecast for 2016-2035 forecasts that 33,000 new passenger and dedicated freighter aircraft will be required over the next 20 years. These aircraft will increasingly turn to composites for improving fuel efficiency.

PAN-based carbon fibers dominate the global CFRP market.

According to the report North America and Europe will need to replace more than 50% of their existing older aircraft, with newer ones to maintain balanced growth, as will airlines in the mature Northeast Asia and Oceania markets. The Asia Pacific and Middle East regions, meanwhile, will invest in new aircraft to expand their fleets.

Although the use of CFRPs was previously restricted to high-end models of vehicles, the imposition of stringent regulations regarding emissions and the need for vehicles that are more fuel-efficient are increasing the acceptance of the composites in the automotive industry. Established automobile manufacturers, including BMW, are currently using CFRP composites in their cars.

The report notes that epoxy is the most commonly used resin for manufacturing CFRPs. However, other polymers such as polyester, vinyl ester, and polyamide are also used as reinforcement matrices.

PAN is the most popular acrylic precursor used for producing CFRPs according to the report. Carbon fibers made of PAN are strong and light, and possess high melting point and good mechanical properties. High strength and high modulus carbon fibers are made of fibers from PAN precursors with superior properties in many aspects, notably in tensile strength, compared with pitch- and rayon-based CFRPs. “PAN-based precursors are used in a wide range of applications, including aircraft brakes, space structures, military and commercial planes, sporting goods, lithium batteries, and as a structural reinforcement in construction materials,” says Ajay Adikari, a lead analyst at

“Pitch-based fibers can achieve ultrahigh Young’s modulus and thermal conductivity. Therefore, they are used in critical military and space applications. The higher cost than PAN precursor has limited its wide acceptance. Military and space research are the major application areas of pitch-based carbon fibers,” says Adikari.

Pitch-based carbon fibers exhibit rigidity and heat conductivity. Therefore, it is easy to manufacture CFRPs with almost zero coefficient of thermal expansion. However, the high tensile modulus of pitch-based carbon fibers poses difficulties for handling during secondary processing, which makes it more expensive than other materials.

The global market for rayon-based CFRP was valued at $1.34 billion in 2015. It will reach an estimated $2.13 billion in 2020, growing at a CAGR of close to 10% during the forecast period. Rayon is produced from naturally occurring non-melting cellulose polymers. The material is easy to process and low in cost. Low-grade carbon fibers can be produced using rayon; they are utilized mainly for manufacturing sports equipment.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Moore

Stephen has been with PlasticsToday and its preceding publications Modern Plastics and Injection Molding since 1992, throughout this time based in the Asia Pacific region, including stints in Japan, Australia, and his current location Singapore. His current beat focuses on automotive. Stephen is an avid folding bicycle rider, often taking his bike on overseas business trips, and is a proud dachshund owner.

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