Glass Reinforced Plastics to Grow 24.5% in 2010

20 Sep 2010 • by Natalie Aster

The European composites industry has bounced back from the economic recession and the market for glass reinforced plastics (GRP) is set to grow 24.5% this year to 1 billion tonnes, according to the AVK Federation of Reinforced Plastics.

The federation presented the data during its reinforced plastics conference that took place this week alongside the Composites Europe exhibition in Essen Germany.

AVK managing director Dr Elmar Witten said the GRP industry has rebounded from a 35% decline during the recession, with production volume coming close to the 1.1 billion tonne mark reached in 2008.

Witten admitted to having been too pessimistic last year, when he predicted that the GRP industry would need several years to recover.

While the upswing in automotive vehicle production has accounted for much of the growth, the newer thermoplastic GMT and LFT materials are growing faster at 33.3% to 100,000 tonnes. The more established markets for thermosetting BMC and SMC materials will grow 23.6% to 267,000 tonnes.

In terms of region, Germany will experience the fastest 2010 growth – 36% to an estimated 161,000 tonnes – thanks to the size of its automotive industry, the introduction of short-time working and government measures to prevent or delay job cuts. The industry has therefore been able to react quickly to increasing demand, said Witten.

Although only growing 15% in 2010, the Iberian peninsular countries of Spain and Portugal will account for 217,000 tonnes. Elsewhere, Italy will account for 154,000 tonnes (26% growth), France 116,000 tonnes (33% growth) and UK/Ireland 130,000 tonnes (29% growth).

The smaller markets of Benelux (40,000 tonnes) and Austria/Switzerland (16,000 tonnes) will grow by 29% and 23% respectively, while Scandinavia (50,000 tonnes) will suffer a 2% decline. There will be strong growth of 34% in the central and eastern European countries of Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Poland, Romania and Serbia, amounting to an estimated total of 131,000 tonnes in 2010.

In general, globalisation will mean that fast growing Asian markets will become increasingly important to the European composites industry in future, said Witten.

At the conference Witten also released data about carbon fibre reinforced composites. Worldwide sales of carbon for CRP production are expected to increase 7.5% to €5.8bn. Pultrusion and tape laying processes account for the majority of sales (41.3% and 37%, respectively), followed by VAP/VARI (vacuum assisted processing, vacuum resin infusion) and RTM/RIM (resin transfer moulding, reaction injection moulding).

CRP production in North America (36%) and Western Europe (34%) are the largest two markets, and Europe is expected to account for half of the carbon fibre demand in the period up to 2010 with “above average growth”. Asia-Pacific and Japan account for around 10% each.

Aviation accounts for 29% of the market, followed by wind power (13%), vehicle construction (11%), sports (11%), general industrial applications (11%) and the medical industry (7%).

Witten said the data shows carbon fibre as being sold worldwide according to process technology rather than production volume in tonnes. This approach is increasingly necessary because of the complexity of the market and the large number of diverse processors, he said.

Source: Plastics & Rubber Weekly

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