China's plastics industry is turning its attention to reinforced composites, and will be looking at ways to increase its expertise with the material, said one composite specialist.
Currently China uses about 2.6 billion pounds of composites annually - most of it thermoset composites, with thermoplastics making up about 13 percent of the total use, said Victor Liu, an Asia specialist for Azdel Inc. of Shelby, N.C. Liu was a keynote speaker at the Society of Plastics Engineers' Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition, held Sept. 11 in Troy.
Chinese firms are interested in composites for the same reason as other manufacturers, drawn by the ability to improve structural performance while using less material, Liu said.
Also, with more automakers operating in China, competition is increasing and auto suppliers there are looking for new ways to make parts that will give them an edge.
But at this point, most companies are not familiar with using composites.
``Not many material developers have the technology or the engineering ability to support its growth,'' he said.
About 40 percent of China's composites are used in the construction industry, with container and piping makers using another 24 percent and industrial equipment another 15 percent. China's auto industry is responsible for about 6 percent of the composite use, the bulk of it in fiberglass parts.
To catch up, some firms are trying to build up their own engineering capabilities in-house, but others will be on the lookout for firms familiar with composites willing to partner with them, Liu said.
``Many companies have realized the need to develop their abilities in that area, and they are looking at teaming up with international companies to boost development,'' he said.