CHEMICAL MARKETS COMPOSITES SALES EXPECTED TO CLIMB

CHEMICAL MARKETS COMPOSITES SALES EXPECTED TO CLIMB

The U.S. market for finished parts made from advanced composite materials is projected to reach nearly $12.2 billion by the year 2000, up from $1.9 billion in 1987, according to analysts at FIND/SVP.

The forecast represents a compound growth rate of 15.3 percent, and although major increases will not be seen until the mid-1990s, automotive applications are likely to be the key factor behind this growth rate. Other major applications include commercial aircraft, space vehicles, sporting and athletic equipment.Advanced composite materials are made by combining carbon, aramid or boron fibers with thermosetting and newer thermoplastic resins.

Reinforced plastics, used in construction and in the chemical industry, represent the major part of the overall composite materials market, totaling 2.8 billion pounds of material or over $8 billion in finished parts last year, the company said.

The newer advanced composite materials provide increased structural efficiency at significantly lower weight than structures made of steel. And they enable engineers to design materials with different properties at the exact point where high strength is critical.

The past 40 years have seen a steady improvement in the properties of synthetic fibers, from nylon to aramids. During this time, fiber stiffness has improved 100-fold, and projections indicate that the next 20 to 30 years should bring another 100-fold increase. Fiber strength has also grown about threefold during this period, the company said.

As new resins are introduced by companies such as E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. and Hoechst Celanese Corp., and as better matrices are developed, the toughness of resin systems will become even greater. Other influential industry players include Boeing Co., General Dynamics Corp., Hercules Aerospace, Lockheed Corp., McDonnell Douglas and Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corp., FIND/SVP said.