Rapid increase of composite growth expected in China

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JEC Frédérique Mutel, JEC president

ATLANTA — The United States has the highest penetration of composites in the world by far — at about 20 pounds per person — but China, at around 4 pounds, will grow at a much faster rate through 2018, the head of JEC Group said at the JEC Americas show.

“We have a great potential in front of us, especially in emerging countries,” JEC President and CEO Frédérique Mutel said. She said the worldwide composites industry should have “quite secure growth” over the period. “Nearly all countries will grow,” she said.

Officials of JEC Group, the Paris-based composites organization that promotes the industry, reviewed global statistics during a May 13 news conference at JEC. The composites show and conference drew about 4,000 attendees to Georgia World Congress Center. It was collocated with the major textile manufacturing shows, Techtextil North America and Texprocess America. Both shows together expected attendance of around 10,000 for the three-day trade fair.

The composites industry was born in North America, and Mutel said the region represents one-third of the global industry total of 9 million tons of composites. Total North American consumption, at 2.5 million tons, is behind China’s consumption of 2.9 million tons. Europe and Asia, excluding China, both use 1.5 million tons.

The above numbers are for 2013.

Looking ahead, JEC predicts global composites will grow by 6 percent a year from 2013 through 2018 by volume and 7 percent when measured by monetary value. China will account for 45 percent of that growth rate over that five-year period, nearly twice as much as North America’s 23 percent.

Mutel said carbon-fiber-reinforced composites are a small, but growing, sector, especially in automotive. But she said more development work has to be done to make the parts economical, regardless of the end market.

“Automation being the key problem for our industry today. How to produce composites parts in large series? That’s the main problem we have in all areas,” she said.

North America has positions in composites for aerospace, transportation and marine, in terms of volume, and in terms of innovation, leads in electronics and civil engineering, according to JEC. In North America, transportation is the largest sector by volume, at 27 percent, followed by building and construction at 22 percent. Two sectors each account for 14 percent — electrical and electronic and pipe and tank. Other segments are: consumer goods (7 percent), aerospace (6 percent), wind energy (5 percent) and marine (5 percent).

This year the composites trade group will hold another JEC Americas in Boston, with conferences and tabletop exhibits, in Boston Oct. 28-29, and JEC Asia in Singapore Nov. 17-19.

The next full-size JEC Americas conference and trade show will be June 2-4, 2015 in Houston, where it again will join with the textile shows.