The global short fiber thermoplastic composites market size was valued at USD 2,574.14 million in 2022. It is estimated to reach USD 3,740.40 million by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 4.24% during the forecast period (2023–2031).
Short-fiber composites comprise a thermoplastic matrix into which chopped fibers are infused (fiber length approximately 0.1 mm, fiber diameter approximately 0.01 mm, and volumetric concentration approximately 15 to 30 percent). In the 1960s, the first thermoplastics with short-fiber reinforcements were made available. Glass and carbon fiber are the two most popular fibers used in short-fiber thermoplastics. The performance of composite materials for lightweight applications is improved by adding short fibers to thermoplastic resins. Short-fiber thermoplastic composites are simpler and less expensive than continuous fiber-reinforced composites.
The usage of short fiber-reinforced thermoplastics in a variety of applications is made possible by this trade-off between price and performance. The qualities of the fiber reinforcement allow short fiber-reinforced thermoplastics to be used in a wide variety of applications. The elastic modulus of short fiber thermoplastics is 2 x 106 psi, and they can bear applied tensile loads of up to 30,000 psi. They are perfect for applications where toughness is essential, high-volume production is involved, and long shelf life and scrap recycling are significant considerations.
With the rising demand for composite materials in many fields, regulations concerning waste management, collection, and treatment are also growing. There are three types of recycling methods, viz; mechanical recycling, thermal recycling, and chemical recycling. The recycled carbon fibers' tensile modulus is retained in the thermal and chemical recycling processes. Chemical recycling processes, which do not severely reduce the diameter of the fiber, typically yield over 90% strength retention.
Carbon fibers can be recycled at less than USD 5/kg, significantly improving the financial viability of carbon fiber composites. Similarly, the supply of composite waste is large, with 10-30% of carbon fiber ending up as manufacturing waste. Such factors and considerations for employing various processes to produce recycled fibers to meet the demand for fiber-reinforced composites have driven the market.
Several industries use lightweight materials, including transportation, aviation, electrical and electronics, and marine. A growing number of transportation businesses are switching to products that make cars lighter due to the increased awareness of fuel pollution. As a result, the need for short-fiber thermoplastics is expected to increase. Short-fiber thermoplastics are expected to be more popular shortly due to tighter CAFE criteria in the United States and EU rules on car CO2 emissions.
It is also projected that demand for short-fiber thermoplastics will increase in other sectors, such as consumer goods, to increase efficiency and cut expenses. High strength-to-weight ratio, superior corrosion resistance, and better design freedom are all characteristics of lightweight materials. An increase in demand for lightweight components and a surge in the manufacturing of aircraft modules are anticipated to boost the market for advanced composite materials and drive the short fiber thermoplastics market.
Compared to short fiber-reinforced thermoplastic or short fiber thermoplastic (SFT) composites, LFTs offer better mechanical properties, which, in conjunction with their ease of processability, have enabled their use as advanced lightweight engineering materials, particularly within the automotive sector. In addition, the long fiber-reinforced thermoplastics are more cost-effectively. According to SSR Composites, the production cost of short fiber-reinforced thermoplastics is very high compared to the long fiber-reinforced thermoplastics due to the high price of raw material, the need for skilled labor, manufacturing processes, and other materials that go into producing carbon-fiber products. The abovementioned factors related to high manufacturing costs and the various advantages of LFTs over SFTs may restrain the market growth.
Almost any basic polymer can be reinforced with short glass or carbon fibers to provide a material with superior mechanical properties, such as better stiffness and wear performance and a higher strength-to-weight ratio. Composites made of glass or carbon fiber that are strong, lightweight, and corrosion-free are suitable replacements for metal. With four to five times the rigidity of glass fiber, carbon fiber offers exceptional mechanical qualities. This is one reason why carbon-reinforced polymers are often used for metal replacement applications when light weighting is required.
Furthermore, the world will likely witness a rise in defense expenditure because of the Russia-Ukraine war. For instance, China has increased its 2021 defense budget by 6.8% to 1.35 trillion yuan (USD 209 billion), faster than last year's growth. Likewise, by 2025, China's total number of aircraft will likely reach 5,343, according to the reports issued by the Aviation Industry Development Research Center of China. Therefore, the increasing spending on the aerospace industry and the defense sector by many governments have been providing growth opportunities for short-fiber thermoplastic composites in recent times.
The global short-fiber thermoplastic composites market is segmented by fiber type, resin type, and application.
Based on fiber type, the global Short Fiber Thermoplastic Composites Market is divided into glass fiber, carbon fiber, and other fiber types.
The glass fiber segment is responsible for the highest market share and is anticipated to exhibit a CAGR of 3.94% over the forecast period. Glass fiber composite (GFC) materials combine E-glass fiber and polyester material. It can have tensile strengths ranging from 44 to 2358 MPa and compressive strengths ranging from 140 to 350 MPa while weighing barely a quarter of the weight of steel. The woven material can be hardened with thermosetting polymers such as epoxy, resin, or thermoplastics. The short glass fibers are usually around 5 mm or 3/16 inches long. Its percentage loading by weight is up to 60%. Glass fiber composites are used in various industries, including automotive, aerospace, construction, and marine.
Carbon fiber is the most popular material for producing thermoplastic composites, especially where high composite strength is required. Carbon fibers are thin fibers with a 5-10 micrometers diameter and are used in reinforced composites. The short carbon fibers are usually around 6 mm or 1/4 inches long. Carbon fibers, or graphite fibers, can be based on three chemical sources: polyacrylonitrile (PAN), rayon, or petroleum pitch. More than 85% of the carbon fibers produced are made from polyacrylonitrile. However, the composition varies with each producer according to the recipe of the manufacturers.
Based on resin type, the global Short Fiber Thermoplastic Composites Market is divided into polypropylene, polyamide, polybutylene terephthalate, and other resin types.
The polyamide segment is the highest contributor to the market and is estimated to exhibit a CAGR of 4.86% over the forecast period. Polyamide composites are lightweight and exhibit high strength, modulus, fatigue resistance, wear resistance, corrosion resistance, gear, electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity, chemical inertness, and thermal stability. Carbon fiber has been used as an effectual nanofiller for thermoplastic polymers, especially polyamide matrices. Incorporating oxidized or modified carbon fiber and nanoparticle-modified carbon fiber into polyamide matrices has further enhanced their physical properties. This composite offers increased stiffness, strength, and durability. Its mechanical qualities can be utilized in various applications in numerous market niches, either as a designed replacement for other materials or as a lightweight alternative to metals.
Polypropylene composites are popular and widely used in various applications such as automotive, aerospace, electrical and electronics, plastic packaging, and consumer products. Polypropylene (PP) composites have excellent flowability, mechanical characteristics, weather ability, and chemical resistance. Injection-molded polypropylene composites can attain complex and intricate shapes, minimize material wastage, and are used in various industries. Hence, injection molded plastics are used to manufacture automotive components, interior wrapping, and numerous assembly parts, which fuel their adoption, thereby driving the growth of the polypropylene market.
Based on application, the global Short Fiber Thermoplastic Composites Market is segmented into aerospace and defense, electrical and electronics, transportation, consumer goods, and others.
The transportation segment owns the highest market share and is anticipated to exhibit a CAGR of 4.78% during the forecast period. The short thermoplastic composites are used in transportation applications as they reduce the vehicle's overall weight without compromising structural strength. In addition, they have enhanced physical properties, such as stiffness. Due to such properties, short thermoplastic composites are gaining demand. Furthermore, changes in regulations and the increasing demand for lightweight vehicles are also significant reasons for increasing the demand for such lightweight materials. Owing to the change in environmental conditions, several makeovers can be seen among government regulations and OEMs around the major markets.
The short thermoplastic composites are used in various electrical and electronics applications, such as fabricating electrical connectors, accessories, and electronics equipment. The components above are used to reduce the overall weight of the components. In addition, they offer advantages such as increased strength, improved durability, and high-impact resistance. The growing production of smartphones, laptops, and portable devices, such as smartwatches and tablets, has led to growing demand and production of short thermoplastic composites.
Based on region, the global short fiber thermoplastic composites market is bifurcated into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, South America, and the Middle East and Africa.
Europe is the most significant global short fiber thermoplastic composites market shareholder and is anticipated to exhibit a CAGR of 4.47% during the forecast period. The European region comprises Germany, France, the U.K., Italy, and the rest of Europe. Germany is the highest contributor to the market revenue share among these countries. In Europe, Germany holds the largest healthcare market. The German government has been framing laws expected to drive the growth of digital health and telemedicine technologies. According to International Trade Administration, the German medical device sector is one of the most profitable in the world, contributing around USD 35.8 billion per year, or 25.6 percent of the whole European market. Europe's largest construction market is in Germany.
Furthermore, the gradual growth of the nation's construction industry is mostly attributable to an increase in the number of new residential construction projects. According to Statistisches Bundesamt, turnover in the construction industry in 2021 increased by 1.0% over the previous year. Hence, the trends mentioned above about end-user industries will likely influence the overall consumption of short-fiber thermoplastic composites in Germany during the forecast period.
North America is estimated to exhibit a CAGR of 3.82% over the forecast period. North American region is further subdivided into the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, where the U.S. dominates the regional market. The United States is the second-largest market for electric vehicles after China. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the sales of electric cars in the country in November 2021 accounted for 229 thousand vehicles; in December 2021, it reached 288 thousand vehicles. The electronics market in the United States is the largest globally regarding volume, making it one of the key potential growth areas for the market under investigation. In addition, due to the accelerated pace of innovation, the development of technology, and R&D operations in the electronics industry, there is a considerable need for newer and quicker electronic devices. Due to the emphasis on producing high-end items, the number of manufacturing facilities and development centers in the US has greatly expanded. All such factors are positive for the short-fiber thermoplastic composites market growth.
China is the largest contributor to the market growth in the Asia-Pacific region. According to OICA, China has the largest automotive production base in the world, with total vehicle production reaching 26.08 million units in 2021, registering an increase of 3%, compared to 25.23 million units produced in the previous year. A growth of 106% in battery-plugged-in electric vehicles was witnessed in November 2021, compared to the same period in 2020. The country's sales of electric vehicles reached 413,094 units in November 2021. In addition, the market share increased to 19%, including 15% of all-electric and 4% of plug-in hybrid cars. The EV sector's growth in the country may stimulate the demand for short-fiber thermoplastic composite during the forecast period.
Brazil is one of the leading automotive manufacturers in the South American region. Increasing demand for passenger vehicles and mini trucks, coupled with the rising popularity of electric vehicles, is expected to impact the automobile industry in the country positively. Therefore, it is likely to support the market over the forecast period. The aerospace industry is another consumer of short-fiber thermoplastic composites. Furthermore, Brazil has some of the largest manufacturing plants for electronics in South America. Several multi-family housing construction projects started in Brazil in Q3 2021, which can create ample opportunities for the market in the country. All these factors are anticipated to raise the demand for short-fiber thermoplastic composites across major industries, including automotive, aerospace, and electronics, in the coming years.
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