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12th November 2018, Stuttgart

Six-year high for glass fibres

The European market for glass fibre reinforced plastics (GRPs) will grow for the sixth consecutive year in 2018, according to AVK, the European Federation of Reinforced Plastics.

Speaking at the 2018 Composites Europe press conference in Stuttgart on 6 November, Dr Elmar Witten AVK’s managing director said production peaked at just over 1.1 million tons in 2007 before falling dramatically to just 815,000 tons in 2009 and has been climbing back ever since.

Dr Elmar Witten AVK’s managing director. © Adrian Wilson

In 2016 production was over a million tons and in 2017 reached just under 1.2 million tons. AVK is predicting another modest rise in production for 2018.

To put the overall 2.95 million-ton European composites market in context, some 1,118,000 tons of GRP were produced in 2017, short fibre reinforced thermoplastics (primarily for injection moulding processes) accounted for 1,470,000 tons and a further 300,000 tons were infusion materials. Carbon fibre composites, meanwhile, accounted for just 40,000 tons.

GRPs are mainly used in the transport/mobility and construction/infrastructure sectors, each accounting for around one third of the total production volume. Since both sectors play an important role in national economies, the GRP market tends to follow the long-term growth trend in GDP.

GRPs are also already used as standard and there is little innovation in the market, with innovation having a limited effect on the market. No sudden changes in total production volume are expected over the coming years.

Germany remains the largest GRP and composites market in Europe. © Adrian Wilson

“The diverse nature of the GRP market means that fluctuations in one area are usually smoothed out by those in other applications,” said Dr Witten.

Although GRP production in Europe continues to grow, its volume still lags behind the global market trend. Production volumes in Asia and America, in particular, have been growing at well over 2% in recent years.

In Europe, while the overall market grew year-on-year by 2% to 1,141,000 tonnes in 2017, growth in individual countries ranged from 0% to 3.7 %.

On a positive note, Southern European countries of Spain/Portugal, France and Italy are reporting above-average growth rates.

Germany remains the largest GRP and composites market in Europe with a total production volume of 229,000 tonnes, although growth here slightly lagged behind the trend for the overall market. Turkey is once again reporting strong growth of 7% to a total volume of 300,000 tonnes. Once again, GRP production in Turkey grew faster this year than in any other European country.

However, there are major differences between the regional markets. GRP processing in Germany, for example, has a strong focus on the transport and electro/electronics sectors, while in Turkey the market is principally infrastructure and in Norway and Sweden the oil and gas industry.

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