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Adrian Wilson

Editor's Viewpoint

15th December 2017, Stuttgart

GRP is finally back on track

The production of glass fibre reinforced plastics (GRP) in Europe has in 2017 finally returned almost to the level it was at prior to the recession years of 2008-2009, according to AVK, the European Federation of Reinforced Plastics.

Speaking at this year’s 3rd International Composites Congress in Stuttgart, Elmar Witten AVK’s managing director said production peaked at just under 1.2 million tons in 2007 before falling dramatically to just 815,000 tons in 2009 and has been climbing back ever since.

Composites Europe. © Adrian Wilson

In 2016 production was over a million tons and this year AVK estimates it will be around 1.2 million tons.

At the same time, production by individual country has changed significantly and Germany’s market share of the total has climbed from 13% in 2007 to 20.2% in 2017. There has also been good growth in East Europe.

By contrast production in Spain, Portugal and Italy has fallen.

Composites Europe. © Adrian Wilson

“There were ruptures in southern Europe as a result of the recession from which GRP production has not recovered,” Witten said.

In terms of market process segments, SMC/BMC (sheet and bulk moulding compound) products accounted for 25% of all GRP production with 21.3% still going into open mould processed products, since there are still many large parts for which automation does not make economic sense.

The fastest growing processes meanwhile are RTM (resin transfer moulding) and GMT/LFT (glass mat and long fibre thermoplastics), with growth of over 13% and 15% respectively.

Composites Europe. © Adrian Wilson

“Thermoplastics are enjoying by far the highest growth due to their easy processability,” Witten observed.

AVK’s figures for 2016 put the total production of composites in Europe at 2.8 million tons, with 1.36 million tons being short fibre reinforced plastics, primarily for injection moulding, 300,000 tons of infusion products and 35,000 tons of carbon composites.

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