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14th June 2017, Moscow

Russian composites industry on the verge of big changes

Eugene Gerden reports

Russia’s government and private investors are aiming to create the conditions for a significant increase in the volume of the country’s domestic composites production in the next few years.

Amid the ongoing recovery of the Russian economy from the financial crisis and its consequences, the need for composites in the country has significantly increased, with the biggest demand coming from the domestic aerospace, shipbuilding and military industries.

Denis Manturov, Russia's Minister of Industry and Trade and a person, who is responsible for the development of composites industry in the Russian government. © Eugene Gerden

In this respect, the Russian government is providing support to domestic composite producers for the design of innovative new composite products, in addition to expanding their established supplies for the needs of major consuming industries.

This includes funding to Moscow-headquartered Holding Company Composites, which although only founded in 2009, is currently responsible for 70% of Russia’s composites production, and is a fully-integrated manufacturer.

Its subsidiary Prepreg-SCM is now manufacturing carbon and glass tapes, unidirectional fabrics and multiaxials for composites.

In addition, JSC United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), Russia’s aircraft-building monopoly, has announced its intention to make investments in composite technologies during the next few years, amounting to around $100 million.

Currently, the UAC is in acute need of innovative composite materials for the planned production of its MS-21, the new Russian single-aisle twinjet airliner, as well as some other models.

In addition to increasing production, the state intends to stimulate R&D activities in the industry.

According to the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade, the government plans to allocate up to US$200 million for this purpose between now and 2019.

Such an initiative has already been supported by President Putin. At the St. Petersburg Economical Forum, one of Europe’s most important annual business events held at the beginning of June, Putin stressed that domestic production should fully cover Russia’s needs in composites during the next few years. He added that this will be one of the priority goals for the Russian government, taking into account the existing sanctions against the country, which prevent imports of new products and technologies based on composites to Russia.

Inside RT Composite, one of Russia's largest producers of composites. © Eugene Gerden

As part of these plans, a new scientific centre, ‘Composites of Russia’, will soon be established at the Bauman Moscow State Technical University, Russia’s leading technical university. It will focus on R&D activities in the field of composites – specifically new carbon-based materials for the aerospace and shipbuilding, automotive, medical and pharmaceutical industries.

Today Russia produces about 1,500 tons of carbon fibre, which accounts for about 2% of the world market. A significant part of this volume is exported, in particular to Western countries.

The aerospace industry is currently the biggest consumer of composites in Russia, with annual consumption of about 25 tons per year.

Particular attention will also be paid to the expansion of the industry’s raw materials base, since Russia lacks its own production of composite fibres and binders.

According to an official spokesman of Denis Manturov, Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade, prior to the beginning of sanctions, the majority of these raw materials were imported. However, since the middle of 2014, further supplies have been almost fully suspended.

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