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12th November 2018, Stuttgart

Solid growth for carbon

The global demand for carbon fibre will continue to enjoy a CAGR of 11.5% up to 2022, according to Michael Sauer of the German industry association Carbon Composites.

Speaking at the 4th International Composites Congress (ICC), held alongside Composites Europe in Stuttgart last week, he said carbon fibre usage was on course to grow from 70,500 tons in 2017 to 78,500 tons in 2018 and will reach 120,500 tons in 2022. Theoretical carbon fibre capacity in 2018 is some 149,3000 tons.

SpaceX cryogenic carbon fibre tank for the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR). © Elon Musk/SpaceX

During 2018, new carbon fibre capacity has come onto the market from Toray – the market leader which now has approaching 50,000 tons of annual capacity following its acquisition of Zoltek and other investments – from Hexcel in France, and from Chinese manufacturers Zhongfu-Shenying  and Hengshen.

Further capacity expansions are currently planned by both Toray and Hexcel, as well as DowAska in Russia and the USA, Hyosung in South Korea and Kangde in China.

The world’s largest 3D printed structure made by Branch Technology from carbon-fibre-reinforced ABS. © Branch Technology

The total carbon composites market in 2018 is valued at $23.1 billion in 2018, with 71.2% accounted for by carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) and the remainder being amounts of CMC (ceramic matrix composites), MMC (metal matrix composites) and various hybrids and other products.

Around 69% of products are thermosets and 29% thermoplastics, along with a small amount of hybrids and elastomers.

The Airbus and Audi flying taxi concept. © Airbus/Audi

The global demand for CFRP parts has climbed from 114,000 tons in 2017 to 128,000 tons in 2018. With a higher CAGR of 12.2%, some 199,000 tons are expected to be utilised in 2022.

The industry’s expansion strategy, it was said, is mainly being driven by the carbon fibre producers, with horizontal diversification involving the broadening of product portfolios, as well as vertical integration. There have been a notable number of recent acquisitions in respect of the latter, including Toray’s acquisition of TenCate Advanced Composites, Kangde’s acquisition of SGL Kümpers, Toho’s purchase of Continental Structural Plastics, Hexcel buying Structil, and Mitsubishi acquiring Gemini Composites.

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