High-Performance Composites

MAR 2013

High-Performance Composites is read by qualified composites industry professionals in the fields of continuous carbon fiber and other high-performance composites as well as the associated end-markets of aerospace, military, and automotive.

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Page 47 of 67

Market outlook Source: HpC/photo: Jeff Sloan SurpluS Carbon Fiber 2012 in carbon fiber's future? More than 100 composites professionals gathered in La Jolla, Calif., in December 2012 for CompositesWorld's annual Carbon Fiber conference. participants at cW's carbon fiber 2012 conference see one coming as early as 2016. O ne of the great attractions of CompositesWorld's Carbon Fiber conference is the outlook on carbon fiber supply and demand, anchored each year by Chris Red, principal of Composites Forecasts & Consulting LLC (Mesa, Ariz.). Over the past few years at the conference, he has consistently forecast an imbalance in the carbon fiber market: Around 2016, carbon fiber demand will outstrip supply. Not so at Carbon Fiber 2012 (Dec. 4-6, La Jolla, Calif.). Crediting quick evolution and strong growth among carbon fiber manufacturers, Red predicted that the composites industry is in for several years of carbon fiber supply that exceeds demand. What's driving the trend to oversupply? There are several factors at work: new carbon fiber suppliers have entered 46 | the market; suppliers overall have increased the efficiency of their carbon fiber production; and, notably, there are signs of contraction in some markets — some are expected to consume less carbon fiber than initially anticipated. That said, there is plenty of room for volatility, according to Red. A marked increase in the use of carbon fiber in the automotive sector, uncertainty in the market for wind turbine blades, new members in the formerly exclusive club of carbon fiber producers — some combination of these or other factors could unbalance the supply/demand equation yet again. As an example of one of those "other" factors, problems with a lithiumion battery system has — as HPC went to press — grounded the fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners indefinitely, and although high-performance composites Boeing sees no effect on 787 production, industry observers differ (see news item on p. 15). The bottom line is this is an exciting, if nerve-wracking, time to be a carbon fiber supplier and consumer. the numbers The charts, tables and graphs that accompany this story outline in detail Red's carbon fiber forecast for the next few years. Here's the big picture: In 2012, the global nameplate capacity of carbon fiber was 111,785 metric tonnes (more than 246.4 million lb), comprising 72,145 metric tonnes (>159.0 million lb) of small-tow fiber (3K to 24K) and 39,640 metric tonnes (>87.3 million lb) of largetow fiber (>24K). By 2016, global nameplate capacity will rise to 156,845 metric tonnes (>345.7 million lb). Of that total,

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