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Composites Europe 2017 - World reinforced materials industry met in Stuttgart

They’relight, stable, corrosion-resistant and low-maintenance: thanks to theseproperties, prospects are excellent for the material and thus also for theEuropean composites industry. Automotive engineering, aerospace andconstruction have been the main drivers propelling fibre composites. Productionquantities of glass-fibre reinforced plastics (GFRP) - which with a marketshare of 95 per cent still represent the largest materials group - once againincreased last year, by two per cent over the prior year. Germany, Europe’slargest composites market, even saw a slightly above-average productionincrease of three per cent. Overall, 1.12 million metric tonnes of GFRP wereproduced, according to the findings of the current 2017 composites marketreport issued by the German Federation of Reinforced Plastics AVK.

"Compositesas a material and the entire associated industry still hold enormous potential,which in many cases has yet to be fully revealed”, says Elmar Witten, managingdirector of the AVK. The companies themselves definitely expressed anoptimistic view of the future. According to the latest edition of thesemi-annual composites market survey in Germany, just one per cent ofrespondents expect commitment to decline, while just under half of them arecounting on their company’s commitment in the composites field to increase.

 

406 exhibitors and 8,342 visitors

This positivemarket outlook was reflected as well at this year’s Composites Europe(Stuttgart, September 19-21), which as Europe’s leading trade fair in thelargest market puts on display the entire manufacturing process from rawmaterials to semi-finished goods to finished components. With a total of 406exhibitors from 28 countries and 8,342 visitors, this year’s Composites Europefell just short of last year’s result (2016: 8,622), but it could enter a wideinternational reach.

More than40 per cent of visitors came from outside Germany. While most of them hailedfrom other European countries, some visitors journeyed to Stuttgart fromfaraway places – from Brazil, for example, the US and Canada, and even fromJapan, New Zealand and South Africa. All told, Composites Europe visitorsrepresented 63 nations. Dennis Baumann, the head of global sales at SGL Group,confirms this observation first-hand: “We meet customers from Germany, Europeand even the US, China and India here. There’s a lot of momentum, including inapplication areas such as construction and mechanical engineering”.

ForHans-Joachim Erbel, CEO of organiser Reed Exhibitions, this unambiguouslyvalidates the decision to move Composites Europe to Stuttgart: “The proximityto the automotive industry and the aerospace sector as the drivers of thecomposites industry meant an additional boost for the trade fair.” While CompositesEurope has thus far alternated between Düsseldorf and Stuttgart, it will now beheld in Stuttgart every year.

Exhibitorswelcome this decision, as emphasised by Hexion’s corporate marketingcommunications director Michael Stahl: “The decision in favour of Stuttgart wasabsolutely correct. The trade fair was characterised by high-quality visitors,noticeably higher demand and excellent talks with customers like Mercedes andAirbus”.

EstibalitzArregi, the composites unit manager of Spain’s Fagor Arrasate, seconds thatnotion: “Stuttgart is an exciting location for us to handle our business, mostof which takes place abroad. That’s why we’re planning on returning next yearand deepening our networking efforts”.

 

Rising significance of multi-material solutions

Thebenefits of fibre composites are most impactful in multi-material lightweightconstruction. That’s because it is now clear that the demands of modernlightweight construction can no longer be met by a single material; finding thebest solutions instead requires hybrid lightweight construction. Serving as theinterface between metal and fibre composite technologies at Copmposites Europeis the Lightweight Technologies Forum, which made its debut back in 2016. “Withthis cross-material forum, we created a new format in order to bring togetherthe composites industry and the application industries in integrated and hybridlightweight construction”, says Olaf Freier, the event director of Composites Europe.

Innovationsare more important than ever these days, especially in integrated lightweightautomotive engineering. The current market study titled “LightweightConstruction as Innovation Driver” illustrates that point. Unveiled inStuttgart, the paper lays out the status quo and explores the trends and futurechallenges of multi-material lightweight construction in the automotive sector.It concludes that politics and end customers are the biggest drivers oflightweight construction right now. However, the consistent implementation oflightweight construction solutions fails due to supplier- andmanufacturer-imposed hurdles, according to the study, which was designed andimplemented in cooperation with Automotive Management Consulting (AMC).

"Lightweightconstruction is particularly important for the international competitiveness ofGerman industry and thus for “Made in Germany”, and lightweight construction asa key innovative technology strengthens our leading international position”,says Elmar Witten, the managing director of the AVK and the industryassociation Composites Germany, and one of the initiators of the position paper“Germany must become the leading lightweight construction supplier”. A total of16 industrial and lightweight construction associations signed the positionpaper a few weeks ago.

Thenext Composites Europe will take place in Stuttgart from November 6 to 8, 2018.


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