Reinforced Plastics Becoming the Norm in Automotive, Aviation, Wind Energy Industries

Reinforced plastics are plastic resins bonded with various types of fibers to improve their mechanical strength and numerous physical properties. These compounds are becoming standard in the construction, automotive, aerospace, and electronics industries, among others, due to their superior physical properties in comparison to conventional materials.

According to Transparency Market Research, the global reinforced plastics market was valued at US$8.4 bn in 2012. Exhibiting a robust 7.60% CAGR from 2013 to 2019, the market’s valuation is expected to rise to US$15.8 bn.

The leading driver for the reinforced plastics market is the steady technological development around the world, which has allowed easy incorporation of reinforced plastics in several industries, and the rapid economic development of emerging countries, which has resulted in an increasing demand for products using reinforced plastics despite their higher prices.

Which is the leading application of reinforced plastics?

The automotive industry is the leading consumer of reinforced plastics, with the high mechanical strength and low weight of reinforced plastics proving to be the perfect combination for automotive design. Reinforced plastics are stronger than conventional car-building materials such as steel and aluminum, and also weigh less, which results in reduced emissions. This is a key factor responsible for the automotive industry’s increasing use of reinforced plastics, as environmental regulations across the world have incentivized low-emission vehicles to variable degrees. The increasingly informed urban consumers also prefer to buy cars that cause minimal damage to the environment.

Ford recently announced a research initiative into the possible use of agave wood in its automotive plastics. Agave fibers are a remainder from the process used to produce tequila from the agave plant, and are currently only used as mulch, compost, or in local art. While glass-reinforced plastics are common in Ford’s product range, the use of plant-based reinforcing material will allow the carmaker to significantly cut down its carbon footprint.

The use of reinforced plastics to reduce emissions is also becoming notable in the aviation and aerospace industry. Commercial airliners, which need to comply with the stringent per-flying-hour emission limits set by various governments, are making use of reinforced plastics to increase their fuel efficiency, while space exploration vehicles also benefit from the use of lightweight and strong compounds.

The lightweight yet strong reinforced plastics are also being used to produce wind turbine blades. Turbine blades made from reinforced plastics can be operated at lower wind speeds due to their low weight and yet are significantly more durable than conventional turbine blades.

Where is the reinforced plastics market growing the quickest?

North America was the leading contributor to the reinforced plastics market in 2012. Its dominant 35% market share can be attributed to the increasing demand from the region’s established automotive sector and the presence of many technological pioneers in the U.S.

However, the booming automotive and construction industries in Asia Pacific are expected to ensure steady demand for reinforced plastics from the region in the coming years. China and India are the key contributors to the Asia Pacific reinforced plastics market, with both countries exhibiting dynamic urbanization and increasing use of high-end automobiles.


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