The aerospace composites market is expected to witness market growth at a CAGR of above 4% over the forecast period from 2015 to 2020 on account of continuing market thrust in Asia Pacific regions and Latin America with budding low cost carriers. Strong demand is anticipated to prevail in North America and European Markets in commercial as well as defence sector. The Middle East airlines industry is growing with lifestyle shifts and business growth in the region coupled with introduction of low cost airlines has led to a boost in overall airlines market.
Aerospace composites are formed by combining two or more basic materials to obtain superior characteristics of binding, reinforcement, temperature resistance and flexibility. Composite matrices can be metallic, ceramic or polymeric manufactured from fibres that can be carbon, glass and natural. These fibres are to be bound together by resins such as epoxies, polyurethanes, phenol and unsaturated polyesters and vinyl esters. Reinforcement decides properties of the composite while matrix holds the structure in place.
Key factors supporting the growth of aerospace composites are their applications in aircraft interiors such as ceiling panels, galleys, cabin linings, cargo floor panels, ceiling panels, overhead compartments, lavoratories, partitions, and bars. Aerospace composites are also used in exterior equipment such as landing gear, doors, winglets ,fins, and trailing edges.
With abundant availability and technological advancements of composites, it is now possible to manufacture light weight air craft components on a mass scale leading to improved fuel efficiency. Composites also provide added advantage of ease of design and production over their metal counterparts.
Aerospace composites are highly cost effective on account of parts integration, reduced manufacturing and assembly time and consequent labour expenses, making significant number of drag inducing fasteners redundant. Maintenance frequency is reduced as composites are corrosion free, better strength retention and improved power to mass ratio leading to reduced operating costs, improved operating efficiency and performance.
Factors restraining the growth of composites are regulatory rules by Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) and ACARE (Advisory Council for aircraft and Innovation and Research in Europe). Specifications regarding the smoke emitted during production, toxicity of the chemicals involved and fire resistance levels of these components are tested for compliance. Also the pricing of the materials is high currently as the technology is in a development phase. The recyclability is low in these substances which may hinder the upward trend in the near future.
The market is characterized by dominance of few companies, which raises entry barriers for Tier 1 and tier 2 companies. Component manufacturers have to continually invest in increased productivity with challenges due to dynamic technology modifications. The industry is highly fluctuating and future predictions are uncertain because highly competitive landscape in the airlines industry with ongoing steep price wars.
Aerospace composites industry presents opportunities owing to continuous technological advancements in component and structural application in materials as well as mainframe. Businesses are increasingly outsourced to Tier 1 and 2 manufacturing partners that possess specialised skills in cost effective manufacturing, these companies have in place advanced manufacturing processes such as tape laying, infusion moulding and fibre placement. Secondary structures and flight control surfaces production is also being outsourced throughout the industry and provide numerous opportunities.
The market can be segmented according to product into fiber reinforced composites, carbon fiber reinforced composites, aramid composites ,ceramic matrix and metal matrix composites .Glass fiber enforced composites are expected to generate high demand owing to characters such as light weight, increased fuel efficiency, high corrosion resistance and short maintenance cycles.
Carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) structures are tougher than aluminium counterparts of the same length ensuring more passive safety and greater resistance to impact damage. Ceramic Matrix composites are used in manufacturing of engines as they can sustain high temperatures and are thus fire resistant and durable.
Application-wise, the market can be segmented into commercial aircrafts, business and general aviation, defence aircrafts, helicopters, and spacecrafts. Commercial aircrafts are expected to emerge as one of the key application domains. Growth in commercial aircrafts is presumed to be fuelled by military applications given the rising concern over security issues, which translates into increased spending on capacity building. Business and general aviation are expected to witness increased use of composites because of the increased demand for business jets, single aisle and twin aisle aircraft.
Key regional markets include developed nations such as the U.S., Canada and European countries such as France, Germany and UK. Asia Pacific countries such as are China, India and Singapore are witnessing considerable demand, which can be attributed to the combination of the swift growth in composite processing and need for aircraft production at higher profitability.
Key players that operate in the industry are Cytec Industries Inc., Hexcel Corporation, E.I. Du Pont De Nemours, Toray industries, SGL Group, Owens Corning .The players are focusing on expansion as a key objective in order to boost the market share and penetration in emerging economies. Other strategies in the sector include new product development, partnerships, joint ventures, technology agreements and collaborations for research purposes.
Research Support Specialist, USA