Carbon Fiber Market – Overview
Carbon fibers are used in resin-based composites for the fabrication of parts in high performance aircraft, space vehicles, and sporting goods to reduce the overall weight of the fabricated component. These are a group of flexible, continuous/chopped filaments derived from pitch, polyacrylonitrile (PAN), or rayon through a series of high temperature heating stages. These fibers have extremely high modulus and high strength. Carbon fiber find applications in automotive, aerospace, and construction industries.
Rise in demand for lightweight vehicles for subsequent reduction in CO2 emissions is anticipated to boost demand for carbon fiber during the forecast period. Carbon fiber offers several structural and weight advantages over traditional steel and injection molded automotive parts. These offer high stiffness, tensile strength, temperature tolerance, less weight, and thermal expansion. Thus, carbon fiber is preferred for manufacturing automobiles. Carbon fiber is primarily used in racing vehicles, supercars, and mid-to-high end sports cars.
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Aerospace is a leading application segment of the global carbon fiber market. The segment is anticipated to expand at a significant pace during the forecast period. Carbon fiber is used to manufacture various aircraft components such as brake wing components, tail and body of planes, and rotor blades of helicopters. In the last few years, glass fiber composites were extensively used in the aerospace industry. Use of carbon fiber is anticipated to increase significantly during the forecast period due to performance limitations of glass fiber and recent development of carbon fiber composites to cater to the growing demand for lightweight and high strength materials.
The PAN-based carbon fiber segment is projected to be highly attractive during the forecast period. PAN-based carbon fibers offer more carbon contents as compared to other product types and hence it is predicted to create enormous growth opportunities during the next few years. PITCH-based carbon fiber is increasingly being utilized in end-use industries such as aerospace and construction sports & leisure.
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In terms of technology, the prepreg segment held significant share in global carbon fiber market in 2017. This technology produces consistent material and provides flexibility to fiber orientation. Pultrusion and other technologies such as centrifugal casting and automated tape lying are projected to constitute substantial share of the market by 2026. Injection molding is a high-volume, fast, and closed process. It is likely to be used in some end-use industries where previously the thermoplastic and metal casting processes were used especially in automotive and electrical components.
Aerospace & defense held significant share of the market in 2017 in terms of value. This segment was followed by the automotive & transportation segment. Carbon fiber composites are also used in sports and leisure products such as golf sticks, tennis rackets, knee pads, and bicycles. Expansion of the sports & leisure industry is ascribed to the rise in demand for sports goods in Asia Pacific, particularly in China. This is expected to boost the carbon fiber market during the forecast period.