CARBON COMPOSITES ARE BECOMING COST EFFECTIVE

Composites have been widely used across industries like aerospace, wind energy, automotive, industrial marine, oil and gas. Advanced carbon fiber composites are in comparison more expensive. The choice of composite is arbitration between cost and performance. As a result, carbon composites have made their impact in high performance vehicles such as jet fighters, spacecraft, racing cars and racing yachts.

In 2014 the market for composite material was estimated to be about $28 Billion and is growing to 15/18% a year. This market will further grow with cost of composite lowering. The cost considered is primarily the composite manufacturing cost.
However to assess a proper cost, the life span of the material should be taken into consideration including maintenance and operation. Cost of composite is at a big advantage if you analyze it with this prism as Composite are stronger stiffer and easier to maintain compared to traditional material.
If costs of carbon composite are probably 100% higher than steel, costs of maintenance is about 80% cheaper however the traditional cost/purchase approach continues to slow the growth of expansion of these new materials.

The effort to produce economically attractive composite components has resulted in several innovative manufacturing techniques. Main raw material of carbon composites are polymeric resins and carbon fibers. Cost of carbon fibers is directly impacted by the cost of its raw material: Polyacrilonitrile (PAN). Average cost of non-aerospace grade is ~$21.50/ kilo with a conversion rate of 50%.
Here are some good development that should impact the cost:
1- Development of low cost for manufacture of commercial carbon fibers (heavy-tow). Projection for 2017 is about $14/ Kilo.
2- Chopped Carbon Fiber/ epoxy prepregs in sheet molding compound form for applications in 3D molding and printing capability.
3- Development of highly moldable fast cycle prepregs;
4- Development of highly reactive resin to reduce cycle time.
5- Combination of fibers to create hybrid resins, reuse of waste fibers all to reduce costs;
6- Development of pre-form technology.

In Marine and Aerospace we have seen major development in recent years that should fuel the price reduction and the growing expansion of carbon composites:
Marine Industry: Carbon composites are considered in selected segment of commercial marine industry in order to achieve high performance with weight reduction. The Racing boat segment is a good example where carbon has been used for years.
The challenges however is that traditional marine standards have not evolved with the new materials and sometimes the quantity of required material per square inches is calculated in reference to old traditional material. It is not an incentive to use new carbon composite. This will have to change but we can expect that it will in the years to come.

Aerospace Industry: Recent advance in aerospace structure are Production of carbon fibers from textile PAN and/or melt spun PAN that will likely create a cost reduction about 15%. Dry composite preforms; High performance fast curing resins;
There is plenty of new development and this is an exciting time as one can see how active the growth of this new industry is. We believe that carbon fibers and composites will allow better environmental impact. It will reduce maintenance costs throughout the life span of material and will avoid costly substitution of complete parts as carbon fibers and composites are easy to repair.

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www.libra6management.com
Libra6 management, Corp invests in Cleantech and alternative materials and has recently invested in California Carbon Industry, Inc.
California Carbon Industry is focused on designing, developing, and manufacturing advanced carbon and composite materials and products for use in the aerospace, automotive, marine, art, furniture and construction industries.

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