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Adrian Wilson

Editor's Viewpoint

28th November 2016, Dusseldorf

Positive messages from Düsseldorf

As the umbrella organisation for AVK, Carbon Composites, CFK Valley and the related branch of the VDMA, Composites Germany is now representing 821 companies and research institutes, having attracted 50 new members in the last year alone.

Speaking at the opening of the 2nd International Composites Congress held in Düsseldorf on Monday (November 28th), president Michael Effing said that the organisations were now uniting as a single voice in the areas of lobbying, standards and standardisation, sustainability and recycling, and education and training, in what is still a very fragmented industry, with diverse areas of know-how.

Composites Europe, a leading European trade fair and forum for composites, technology and applications, will take place from 29 November – 1 December 2016, at the Düsseldorf Exhibition Centre. © Billy Hunter

Germany continues to outpace the rest of Europe in terms of composites development and production. Elmar Witten, managing director of AVK, noted that while growth across Europe is on average an annual 2.5%, in Germany this year it will be nearer 4%. In addition, Germany’s share of the 2.85 million tons of composites that will be produced in Europe in 2016 will be over 20%, compared to 16.4% in 2011.

“Production is also increasing in some east European countries, but Spain, Portugal and are still struggling to return to the levels they were at before a dramatic downturn during the recession,” he said. “Turkey’s production, meanwhile, is w even bigger than Germany’s, at an annual 230,000 tons, but for very different applications, with over half for the pipes and tanks market.”

Speaking specifically of the production of glass fibre-based materials (GFRP), he said that 1.09 million tons would be produced in Europe this year.

“In Germany alone, there are around 1,500 companies involved in the manufacturing of composites and a quarter of all output is still based on open mould and hand lay-up operations,” he added, “while another 25% is in highly automated SMC and BMC operations. The fastest growth, however, of more than 7% annually, is in GMT and LMT.”

Michael Kühnel, marketing manager at Carbon Composites, added that the influence of BMW’s i-Series car programme hadn’t to date been as influential as expected. Nevertheless, with the adoption of carbon technologies into the chassis for the new BMW7, 64,000 tons of carbon composites are on course to being consumed this year by the automotive sector, compared to 24,000 tons in 2014, when the i3 was launched. In terms of value, carbon composites are still achieving much higher prices in aersopsace, with the average value per kilo processed estimated to be worth $310, compared to $86 per kilo in automotive.

The obstacles for carbon composites remain the high cost of carbon fibre production and the lack of rapid processing routes for mass production. These are areas, however, where progress is almost continuous.

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