Composite Material Threat - Transportation/Logistics and Trucking Industry
Composite materials represent a significant threat to the traditional metal fabrication industry as more parts of automotive are expected to be increasingly made with composite materials instead of steel/metal/aluminum. However, the overall transportation industry is expected to grow, leading to an increased market for metal fabrication in the near future.
Composite Materials Transportation/Logistics
- Composites are increasingly being adopted in the transportation industry because of the superior efficiency they offer and analysts believe that adoption will only increase in the near future.
- Composites are believed to "offer savings on weight and are superior in durability, leading to increased fuel efficiency and a longer life."
- The transportation industry is the biggest market for composites and it is expected to grow further. According to the US government, "the automotive industry is continuously looking for innovative materials to help reduce vehicle weight and achieve fuel efficiency and carbon emission targets" and are increasingly turning to composite materials.
- The logistics/transportation industry represents 28% by volume and 25.1% by value of the overall composites market and more growth is expected in the future.
- The US government further states that "the biggest trend in the automotive industry is the development of technologies for making carbon fiber parts for mass-volume vehicles. Carbon fiber demand by the automotive industry will rise sharply in the coming years as lightweight vehicles become increasingly important."
- In the aerospace industry for example, Boeing Co. "first used fiberglass in its 707 passenger jet in the 1950s, and it comprised roughly 2% of the structure. Since that time, each generation of Boeing aircraft has had an increased percentage of composite materials. Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is approximately 50% (by weight) composites."
- The aerospace industry is expected to be one of the fastest-growing end-users of composite materials. This dominance is attributed to the high demand for honeycomb core materials from next-generation aircraft.
- "Airbus, Boeing’s main competition in the large transport aircraft category, has countered with the A350, which makes extensive use of composites, as well, also roughly 50% by weight."
- According to industry analysts, the predicted annual growth rate for automotive composites over the next several years is between 6% and 9%. This is probably because there is an increasing demand for sustainability development in the transportation industry which requires weight reduction, lowering gas emissions, fuel consumption, and increasing recyclability.
- There is no doubt that the application of composites in heavy vehicle manufacturing is being adopted and prototypes are being developed, however, it is happening at a slower pace than the rest of the automotive industry. This is partly because trucks demand heavier and stronger materials capable of withstanding the pressure the truck will be subjected to in varying conditions.
- For instance, in 2015, Volvo announced a prototype 18-wheelers truck made up of composite material that is still in this research stage. While these shows that composite materials will be gradually introduced in this segment, it lags behind other automotive where composites are already being deployed.
- Although adoption in the truck industry may be slower, the same forces (sustainability, weight reduction, lowering gas emissions, fuel consumption, and increasing recyclability) driving the adoption of composite material in the overall transport industry are still going to impact the trucking industry.
- Hence, in both the trucking and transportation industry, the adoption of composites poses a significant threat to the metal fabrication industry. However, the market for metal fabrication is expected to increase in the future due to the expanding transportation industry and a vibrant US economy.
- Hence, although more composite material will be adopted in this sector in the future, the demand for metal/steel/aluminum still keep increasing because the overall market is increasing. However, growth in the composite market is expected to be faster (5.8%) compared to the growth of the metal fabrication market (1.4%) in the coming years,