Composites have been used in the aerospace industry for decades and are prized for their exceptional strength and light weight. As the percentage of aircraft bodies using these materials increases, so does the need for improved techniques and properties for their durability and maintenance. While there is considerable focus placed on the use of composites in aircraft bodies and fuselage, composite joints and components that are more durable, inspectable, maintainable, lightweight, and affordable than traditional through-thickness fasteners or adhesive bonding are also being developed.
According to research form MarketsandMarkets, the aerospace composites market is projected to grow from $24.49 Billion in 2016 to $42.97 Billion by 2022, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.85% between 2017 and 2022. The use of aerospace composites is increasing, due to the high strength and reduced weight as well as the increased heat resistance offered by these materials making them desirable to both military and commercial aviation. The US is the largest consumer of aerospace composites globally, in terms of value and volume due, in part, to the presence of giant players such as Boeing and GE along with the establishment of several new carbon fiber production plants in the U.S.
Aerospace composites are used in interior as well as exterior structural components of aircraft with exterior structural applications comprising a large portion of the aerospace composites market. The high demand for carbon fiber composites in airframe structures is due to their light weight, increased fuel efficiency, superior performance, easy maintenance, and reduced part counts. However, a few factors act as restraints in the growth of the aerospace composites market – recyclability and lack of standardization in manufacturing technologies are expected to be the major restraints for the growth of the aerospace composites market. Additionally, the high cost of aerospace composites technologies has been a point of concern associated with its expansion into structural applications of aircraft. While these aircraft applications now becoming more commonplace, composites are heading to space – Lockheed Martin developed a composite heat shield to protect the Mars 2020 rover from the intense heat during entry, descent, and landing using a tiled Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator (PICA).
To meet the increasing demand for these materials, manufacturers of aerospace composites are entering supply agreements with various industries to secure their positions in the aerospace composites market. This has given rise to a diversified and established ecosystem of upstream players, such as raw material suppliers and downstream stakeholders, which include aerospace composites manufacturers, aerospace composites vendors, end users, and government organizations. Many major players in the aerospace composites market have adopted backward and forward integration strategies to strengthen their positions in the market. The key players in the global composites market are Owens Corning (US), Toray Industries, Inc. (Japan), Teijin Limited (Japan), Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corporation (Japan), Hexcel Corporation (US), SGL Group (Germany), Nippon Electrical Glass Co. Ltd. (Japan), Koninklijke Ten Cate (Netherlands), Huntsman International LLC. (US), and Solvay (Belgium).
The American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) is the world’s largest composites industry trade group and hosts a variety of annual events, the Thermoplastic Composites Conference is coming up in May. The International Conference on Aerospace Composites and Technology is taking place in April and will bring together academic scientists, researchers and research scholars in the field.