The world composites production is estimated around EUR 46.4 billion. There are about 10,000 composites-processing companies with more than 100 employees and most players are small or medium-sized companies. There are several thousand companies as suppliers, equipment suppliers or contractors.
Major reinforcements used for plastics are glass fiber and carbon fiber. Italy is one of the largest players in the European composites market. In Italy major applications are: aerospace, transportation, industrial applications, boats and construction. Other emerging sectors such as interior design, sports and bioengineering are also present. All composite applications related to renewable energy, environmental protection, nanotechnologies and life science will conquer new market segments in the near future.
The use of composite materials has been growing and spreading in almost every sector for the past 25 years. With an annual growth at 5 percent, the market has reached EUR 46.4 billion. According to JEC Group President Frédérique Mutel,” 2010 marks the beginning of a new era for composites. The industry has built itself a niche at every stage of the value chain. The pioneer companies have gradually become more concentrated. Production methods are also radically changing with companies using increasingly automated technologies”.
With the tangible recovery of the sales market, companies are consolidating their business, expending their production facilities and exploring new applications. A range of new products and applications is emerging. The innovation trends are towards biomaterials, automation and environmental compatibility. Furthermore, the composite material combining wood and plastics (WPC: wood plastic composites) will face an important increase in demand of about 10-11% annually in the United States and of about 13-14 percent in Europe. The reasons for the high growth rate are because of its durability, low maintenance, and resistance to insects and atmosphere agents.
The composites market in Italy is characterized mainly by glass fiber and carbon fiber reinforcement.
In tonnage terms glass fiber represents more than 80 percent of all reinforcement fibers used in composite worldwide. According to AVK (Federation of Reinforced Plastics) glass reinforced plastics production (GRP) in Europe reached 1.015 Million Kt (Kilotons) rising by about 25 percent as compared to the amount of 2009, thus almost returning to the volumes of 2008. (Information provided by suppliers of raw materials).The “big five” – Spain, Italy, Germany, Great Britain and France – are the largest players in the European market, accounting for about three quarters of the entire European production volume. Italy has a production of 154Kt (Kilotons).
The main applications for GRP production in Europe are construction and transportation, covering respectively 36 percent and 34 percent of the entire market. Electrical industry and Sport and Leisure represent 14 percent of the market.
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