Innovations in LightWeight Composites (Technical Insights)

  • September 2013
  • -
  • Frost & Sullivan
  • -
  • 53 pages

Lightweight Materials Facilitating Improved Performance of Products

The research service focuses on the emerging trends and opportunities in the lightweight composite industry worldwide. The LWC industry has gained focus and momentum in recent years mainly due to market need for new materials that can save on fuel and energy consumption by reduction of product’s body weight while remains strong and durable in application. This research service summarizes the various available materials and processing technologies for manufacturing lightweight composite components, new innovations and technology roadmaps for the emerging opportunities for light weight composite materials.

Research Scope

Lightweight Composites (LWCs) have gained focus and momentum in recent years mainly due to the growing market need for significant weight reduction in transportation equipment to reduce fuel consumption. Besides the automotive and transportation sector, other sectors such as building and construction, wind energy, and consumer goods are focusing on replacing conventional materials with lightweight composites for improved performance of their products and services. The potential of lightweight composites to meet diverse design requirements with significant weight savings as well as high strength-to-weight ratio as compared to conventional materials has made them the material of choice in a wide range of industries.

The research service titled “Innovations in Lightweight Composites” focuses on the emerging trends and opportunities in the lightweight composites industry worldwide. This research service also summarizes the various application areas of lightweight composites and emerging opportunities in each sector. Since the usage of light weight composites in automotive and aerospace applications are already established, this study focuses on emerging application areas such as marine, mass transit, electronic and electrical (E&E), wind power generation and consumer goods.

This research service will cover the following key points related to Lightweight Composites:
• Technology overview, technology capability, and value chain analysis of lightweight composites.
• Industry trends and assessment of emerging innovations and their market significance to stakeholders.
• Key market drivers and challenges that will impact large-scale adoption of lightweight composites across application sectors.
• Demand side analysis of lightweight composites focusing on end consumer needs.
• Assessment of market opportunities and technology roadmap of lightweight composites for emerging application sectors.
• Key patents and contacts within the lightweight composite industry encompassing suppliers, fabricators, product developers, researchers, and industry experts.

Research Methodology

Primary Research
• Engineers
• CTOs/ CEOs/ CIOs
• Technical Architects
• Research Heads
• Strategic Decision Makers
• Technology Policy Heads

Secondary Research
• Technology Journals
• Periodicals
• Market Research Services
• Technology policy information sites
• Internal databases
• Thought Leader Briefings

Key Findings

1. Lightweight composites has gained acceptance automotive and aerospace industries and is still in nascent stage of market and technology development in other sectors such as wind power generation, marine, construction and consumer goods. However, challenges, such as increased need for low cycle time and low-cost production have to be addressed to facilitate market penetration and continued growth in these application sectors.
2. Global developments in the lightweight composite industry is mainly from USA and EU due to presence of many multinational companies in these regions. However, the industry is rapidly growing in APAC, mainly due to new investments in the transportation, and building and construction sectors and increase in consumer awareness towards lightweighting. Wind power industry holds the maximum growth opportunities for lightweight composites, especially in the NA region.
3. Stakeholder initiatives, especially those by research organizations have played a vital role in collaborating and facilitating technology and product commercialization. This strategy of bringing like-minded participants under one umbrella and addressing the market needs has helped complement existing technologies and explore other new market opportunities. For example, the EU funded (European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme) collaborative R&D project, ‘WALiD’ consortium, formed to research the replacement of thermoset composites with thermoplastic composites in certain components of offshore wind turbine blades has the ability to increase awareness towards lightweight composites in this sector and also facilitate market adoption.
4. Besides developing different types of composites and fine tuning manufacturing processes, there is a strong need for advanced designing tools and software simulators to speed up mass production of composites-based end products with desired performance characteristics. This creates a new competitive edge for small to mid-sized material and product designing and simulation companies across the value chain.
5. Opportunities for lightweight composites are expected to emerge in the next five to six years in construction, wind power, oil and gas, and medical and consumer goods. Bio-based and nanocomposites is likely to receive greater attention in mid to long- term across applications mainly due to increasing environmental consciousness and need to increasing functionality.

Technology Snapshot

Today, industries are increasingly focusing on development of more durable, lightweight and higher performance products. Composites, which are multiphase materials formed by combining at least two or more different materials to create a superior and unique material are able to meet diverse design requirements with significant weight savings as well as high strength-to-weight ratio as compared to conventional materials. Other benefits include improved tensile strength, excellent fatigue, impact and weather resistance, operation versatility to name a few. These advantages over conventional materials has resulted in increasing interest for the adoption of composites in the following sectors:

Automotive
One of the largest lightweight composite markets, driven by legislations and growing customer concern towards weight reduction in vehicles to minimize fuel consumption. Composites have applications in the manufacture of both interior and exterior components.

Aerospace
In aerospace industry, composites are replacing heavy metals like steel and aluminum, mainly due to improved fuel efficiency and performance. Composite parts such as aerospace components are being developed for ccommercial, pleasure and military aircrafts.

Wind Power
Adoption of composites for wind power generation is relatively new market, with high strength to weight ratio of composites making the material, a ultimate solution for large-scale power production. Composites include manufacture of turbine blades, oil rig tubulars and other components.

Marine
Composites that help reduce weight, create higher impact strength, enhance fuel efficiency and design flexibility are increasingly finding applications as alternatives for conventional materials for commercial, pleasure and naval boats and ships.

Mass Transit
The industry, which is driven by reduction of weight and fuel consumption, has opportunities for adoption of composites for manufacture of body parts and components of buses, rails and other mass transit applications.

Consumer Goods
Lightweight composites with good aesthetic features, and self life are finding growing interest for the manufacture of sporting goods, furniture, fabrics, packaging, toys, decorative pieces and curios to name a few.

Civil Structures
Composite materials can provide lightweight, corrosion resistant, and non-conductive structures and components than conventional materials for manufacture of civil structures. Typical application areas include use of composites for buildings, roads, bridges and pilings to name a few.

Electronics & Electrical
Good thermal and dimensional stability of composites is mainly responsible for its application in E&E industry. This includes development of components for both electrical and electronic applications such as pole line hardware, substation equipment, microwave antennas, printed wiring boards to name a few.

Apart from the above mentioned application areas lightweight composites holds potential in healthcare, military, and oil and gas industries.

Table Of Contents

Table of Contents

Executive Summary 4
Technology Overview 8
• Technology Snapshot 9
• Technology Capability 11
• Value Chain Analysis 12
• Overview of Manufacturing Processes 13
• Manufacturing Processes- Comparative Analysis 14
Industry Trends and Impact Analysis 15
• Lightweight Composites Trends in Application Sectors 16
• Drivers and Challenges that Influence Adoption of Lightweight Composites 19
• Stakeholders Initiatives to Overcome Challenges 22
• Demand Side Analysis—End- User Perspective 24
• Industry Initiatives and Impact on Stakeholders 25
• Recent Innovations and Market Significance 28
Opportunity Evaluation and Roadmapping 31
• Emerging Opportunities-Potential Applications 32
• Technology Road Mapping 33
• Management Practices—Strategies Adapted by Stakeholders 39
Analyst Insights 40
Key Patents 41
Key Industry Contacts 46
The Frost and Sullivan Story 49

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