There is no clear definition for “Industrial fabrics,” but in this report, industrial fabrics mean not only textiles used for various industrial uses, but also high performance textiles for apparel and other non-industrial uses. Industrial fabrics are categorized into ten segments: 1) transportation textiles; 2) construction and building textiles; 3) geotextiles; 4) safety and protective products; 5) medical textiles; 6) industrial applications; 7) energy and environmental products; 8) agriculture and fishing products; 9) packaging; and 10) sports and recreation products.
The world market size for industrial fabrics is roughly estimated at US$120 billion in 2010. The size of the Japanese production of high performance industrial fibers is estimated at US$5.9 billion. Despite current economic conditions, the world and Japanese markets are expected to grow over the next few years.
In order to avoid direct competition with inexpensive Asian products, U.S. companies should focus on high value added products. In particular, high tech industrial fabrics for medical products, renewable energy and environmental products, transportation, and safety and protective products may have good potential in Japan.
U.S. companies seeking a Japanese partner should exhibit at the IFAI (Industrial Fabrics Association International) Expo Asia and IFAI Expo America, where not only Japanese companies but also companies from all over Asia and the world will attend.
(Note: the following annual average exchange rates were used for this report: US$1.00 = 103.39 Yen in 2008, 93.68 Yen in 2009 and 87.78 Yen in 2010 and after).
“Industrial fabrics” are, technically, fabrics used only for industrial purposes (not for home furnishings or apparel). “Technical textiles” is another term often used for these fabrics but “technical textiles” actually represents a broader category of fabrics, which not only includes industrial fabrics but also high performance textiles that are used in apparel and in recreational and other non-industrial products. For the purposes of this report, “industrial fabrics” will have the same broad meaning as “technical textiles” and will, therefore, include a wide range of high performance textiles.