What is the biggest challenge to composites industry ?

Posted by zccyfiberglass on December 14th, 2015

A survey on the Reinforced Plastics LinkedIn group asked this question.

The results so far are shown below, with lack of mass production/automation techniques and lack of knowledge of composites coming out on top, followed by higher prices of composites.


Of course this is a very simplistic survey and in reality the industry faces a combination of challenges in different markets and regions of the world, as the following comments (posted on the LinkedIn) illustrate.

Michael Ricks, Director Engineering Projects, GKN Driveline, Germany: The lack of mass production/automation techniques influence the price, but still beyond the efforts in this area the price for composite parts is limiting the applications.

Laurence (Laurie) Walker, Technical Director, Inovas Asset Integrity, Australia: Standardisation, design standards and good technical support/backup from my suppliers are my key issues when trying to increase composites acceptance. Structural engineers always want my composite solutions designed to code, with an extensive history and with a warranty. When there is no code, limited precedent and I can't get any warranty from my materials suppliers I know its going to be a hard sell.

Fabricators, designers and contractors need better support from materials suppliers both technically and through shared case studies to grow this industry. We usually do all our materials testing in-house because we can't get or trust the information from our suppliers.

Price of the raw materials is holding us back in a number of key markets.

We manufacture industrial products (pipe, tanks, ducting etc) and our competition is steel, concrete and thermoplastics. We are still 25-30% more expensive than thermoplastics and so we lose market share. Our manufacturing costs plant and labour are less than most other materials so these are not factors in the end cost or sale price. So long as polyester resins remain at historical price points we will not compete with thermoplastics.

The standards and design are well proven in our field with a wide range of standards from Europe and USA with decades of history and prior use so these are not the reasons we lose out to alternative materials.

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