Due to the high cost and other technical hurdles for these advanced composite materials, their use has been restricted to high-end niche applications. Nevertheless, CFRPs are dropping in cost and starting to progress beyond sporting goods and defense applications and into the commercial realm of aerospace, wind, and automotive uses. Aerospace and wind dominate on a volume and revenue basis today, but material costs remain an issue for CFRPs to win the big automotive volumes.
Opportunities exists throughout the automotive value chain to drive cost out of CFRPs, starting with the fiber itself. Ambitious automotive targets include reducing fiber cost to half of today’s $21.2/kg requiring innovations among different steps of the synthesis process to be combined. The industry’s best shot at achieving the carbon fiber price reduction necessary for high-volume applications like automotive, is the employment of polyolefin-precursor carbon fiber combined with atmospheric pressure plasma oxidation and microwave-assisted plasma carbonization, which will yield a pilot-scale cost of $10.5/kg in 2017.
How will this impact the total CFRP market? It will reach $36 billion in 2020, growing at a CAGR of 13% from its base of $14.6 billion in 2012, with demand for carbon fiber rising from 35,000 MT to 110,000 MT. Within this aggregate, aerospace and wind will continue to duke it out for supremacy. In contrast, while the foreseeable innovations that will advance high-volume automotive uses are there, their later in the decade realization pushes substantial volume beyond 2020. The opportunity is clear for innovative materials companies to position for predicted CFRP cost reductions and experience growth in the 10 year timeframe or deliver enabling technology that can bring this date forward.
To learn more about this topic, join us for the upcoming webinar, “Stronger, Lighter, Cheaper, Better: Harnessing the Power of Carbon Fiber” on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 11 am EDT