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Experts Promise Bright Future for Composite Materials

End of March, the future of the composites industry was discussed at the international JEC Composites Show in Paris. Only a year ago glass fibre dominated the show almost entirely. This year saw a reversal of the trend: nine-tenths of all booths exhibited carbon fibre materials. According to market forecasts, automotive industry and wind energy will be the major growth drivers in the coming decade.

The international JEC Composites Show Paris was held in the French capital from March 29th to March 31st, 2011. The show is rightly considered number one exhibition for the composites industry. The show was organised by the JEC Group. It takes place every year starting from 1965 and attracts a vast number of innovators from all over the world. Throughout its long history the JEC Composites Show remained one of the key events in the industry. The show generates a lot of interest not just from professionals in the chemical industry but also from aerospace, automotive, and civil engineering industries, as well as attracting professionals from the rail road sector, municipal utilities segment, manufacturers of plumbing fixtures and many others.

Glass fibre composites dominated the show just a year ago. However, the trend was reversed this year: nine out of ten booths exhibited carbon fibre-based composites, says Leonid Melamed, CEO of the Composite Holding Company and one of the attendees of the JEC Composites-2011. He believes that the market was turned around due to the global recession, - 'Economic recession accelerates the development of new technologies and new revolutionary materials.'

The show exhibited production equipment, technologies, pre-fabricated and ready-to-use composite products from all six continents. Leonid Melamed announced that Composite Holding Company will have an exhibitor's booth at the next show in Paris and show the world some of the advances made in Russia. It is expected that JEC Composite-2012 will have a whole section dedicated to Russian manufacturers of composite materials.

The show in Paris is not just a 'see and be seen' event, it is a unique opportunity to analyse the industry's outlook for the near future. According to Mr. Melamed, experts were unanimous in saying that automotive and wind energy industries will be major growth drivers for the composite market, - 'BMW was definitely the hero of the day. The company actually disrupted the market declaring composites a material of the future. True, composite materials are currently more expensive than metals. BMW firmly believes that price reduction can only happen if the technology is developed without delay'. According to Mr. Melamed, price reduction will be brought on by a rapid increase in fuel prices. Until quite recently composites were exclusively used to make luxury cars, but now there is talk about mass-produced vehicles. 'All it takes is one large automotive OEM. As soon as they express interest in new technology it generates a lot of anxiety. Nobody is afraid to lose when it comes to design - the design war can always be won next year, but when it comes to new technologies, a loss could be rather disastrous', remarks the CEO of Composite Holding.

Mr Melamed also noted that this year's show involved many small and medium-size companies. 'This is yet another proof that such companies finally believe in the booming industry. A large company can afford to think strategically and invest long-term, thinking about a ten-year perspective. But when it comes to small and medium-size companies, they can only afford to plan ahead for a year. Therefore, if they appear on the market, it means that they already believe in success of composite materials', asserts Mr. Melamed.

Andrew M. Walker, a representative of Manchester University confirms the trend. Mr. Walker was a speaker at the show and delivered one of the most interesting reports. The scientist claims that, 'the new light-weight high-strength material namely, carbon fibre-reinforced plastic also known as composite material is finding new applications in all kinetic systems'. 'The 21st century calls for high-performance materials and carbon fibre will be undeniably the most important one', says Mr. Walker. Irina Lebedeva, R&D Director of Composite Holding, explained that apart from other topics, manufacturers actively discussed a possibility to reduce prices for carbon fibre in the next three to four years.

Currently, the turnover of the composite industry stands at 60 bn Euro. On the back of the global annual price growth of 5% per year, the industry can reach 80 bn Euro by 2015. In terms of volume, the market will grow from 8.6 to 10.0 mn tonnes. Environmental concerns and fuel demand, as well as searching for even lighter materials give a push to development of new composites. Market share of BRIC countries is projected to increase from 22% to 29% by 2013. China's share of the global market will reach 23%, India and Brazil will have 3% each, while Russia will account for around 1%.


System of external reinforcement

The reinforcement system based on a carbon cloth can restore and increase the carrying capacity of structures in a short time and less effort than traditional methods, as well as significantly increase the life of the structure.

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