COMPOSITES EUROPE 2014 sets records -
Automotive and construction sectors drive growth spurt
The European composites market is still growing in 2014 - by 2% in the largest segment, glass-reinforced plastic (GRP), which exceeds the expectations of some in the industry. That's the result of the latest market report presented by the industry association AVK at the start of COMPOSITES EUROPE in Düsseldorf. According to the report, steady above-average growth in markets such as Germany, the UK, Ireland and the Eastern European states contributes to the sector's positive outlook. Playing a key role in this area is strong demand from the main customers: the transport and construction sectors.
"The automotive industry in particular has been generating new momentum with positive spillover on composites manufacturers and suppliers. Thermoplastic materials benefit more than other areas from new applications and current European market dynamics", says AVK Managing Director Dr. Elmar Witten.
This sustained upward trend was also reflected at this year's COMPOSITES EUROPE in Düsseldorf, which set new records thanks to significantly higher numbers of visitors (+ 25%) and exhibitors (+ 7%).
Attending the event at the Düsseldorf Exhibition Centre from 7 to 9 October were 419 exhibitors (last Düsseldorf event in 2012: 392) from 27 nations and 10,186 visitors (2012: 8,131). Leading composites manufacturers and processors, equipment manufacturers and research institutes showcased their goods and services at the ninth COMPOSITES EUROPE. The focus of the trade fair, lecture programme and concurrent AVK Conference was on optimising processes that enable high-volume composites manufacturing processes.
Mechanical engineering benefits
from booming composites sector
At the same time, COMPOSITES EUROPE demonstrated how the mechanical engineering sector benefits from the demand for composites. "The prospects for mechanical engineering in the area of composites are very good. At COMPOSITES EUROPE, one can see the critical role mechanical engineering plays in automation and what our industry can contribute", says Dr. Walter Begemann from the VDMA Forum Composite Technology. "The trade fair and its exhibitors provide critical guidance to the sector", adds Begemann.
"Above all, the exchange between industry and science is becoming more and more important", says Michael Köhler, the event director of COMPOSITES EUROPE. The trade fair highlighted a range of original ideas at the new "Industry meets Science" special area. Developed in cooperation with RWTH Aachen's IKV, the event is designed to present cutting-edge scientific developments. Additionally, the trade fair expanded its portfolio of offerings this year by adding a new special area dedicated to biocomposites and exhibition tours centred on wind energy.
Transport and construction sectors
continue to stimulate growth for GRPs and CFRPs
"I'm certain the development at BMW opened the door for the boom in the composites sector", says Erich Fries, the director of KraussMaffei's composites unit, adding that the RTM process proved it's possible to economically produce fibre-reinforced plastics even in large quantities.
This development will also benefit the CFRP market, whose growth rate will stabilise around 10% over the next few years, according to the latest market report issued by the industry cluster Carbon Composites (CCeV). This outcome is possible thanks to steadily increasing demand from sectors such as aeronautics, wind energy, and sports and leisure. Automotive engineering and construction are two more market segments assumed to harbour considerable growth potential.
The degree to which the transport sector propels the composites industry forward becomes evident as well in the number of trade fair visitors representing various corporate design and development departments: half (51%) hailed from the automotive sector, followed by aeronautics (28%), mechanical engineering, construction and wind energy.
Almost half of all COMPOSITES EUROPE visitors came from outside Germany (45%). "This shows that the trade fair has developed into an indispensable high-tech exchange, a place for the industry to trade mostly with its ideas of tomorrow", says Hans-Joachim Erbel, CEO of trade fair organiser Reed Exhibitions Deutschland GmbH. Peter Egger from the Austrian plastics machinery manufacturer ENGEL also emphasises the trade fair's significance for the sector: "We met all the OEMs that are important to us. The trade fair is the right event for us when it comes to positioning our company on the composites market."
The sector's future prospects are somewhat nuanced but generally positive. A representative survey of trade fair visitors confirmed that view. When asked about their sector's medium-term economic development perspectives over the next four years, 64% of visitors said they expect moderate to strong growth. A majority of visitors surveyed consider China and North America key additional growth markets outside of Europe.
Premiere of the
Composites Germany Conference 2015 in Stuttgart
The trade association Composites Germany also seeks to enhance the sector's international character. Starting in 2015, for example, the group will launch a new supplement to COMPOSITES Europe, a new international conference. An announcement to that effect was made in Düsseldorf by the four participating industry associations: AVK, Carbon Composites (CCeV), CFK Valley Stade (CFK-Valley) and the VDMA Forum Composite Technology. The Composites Germany Conference will replace the AVK Conference, which has served as COMPOSITES EUROPE's kick-off event for nine years. "Germany is the cross-sectoral leader among providers of composites materials for lightweight construction", says Dr. Michael Effing, the chairman of the board of Composites Germany, adding that the composites industry is a key sector bolstering Germany's status as an economic powerhouse. "Under no circumstances do we want to give up this status", Effing says. Highlighted themes at the conference, which will be designed with an international audience in mind, will be innovation factors such as efficient processes, and de jure and de facto standardisation.
The next, tenth COMPOSITES EUROPE will take place in Stuttgart from 22 to 24 September 2015 - concurrently with the second HYBRID Expo.
Images: R. Eberhard, messekompakt.com, EBERHARD print & medien agentur gmbh
Source: Reed Exhibitions