Will a carbon fiber supply crunch emerge?


Forecasts for carbon fiber (CF) usage in 2020 vary widely from 136,000 tonnes according to CF supplier SGL Group (Wiesbaden, Germany) to 342,000 tonnes in a best-case scenario painted by Professor Andrew Walker, director of the Northwest Composites Center at the University of Manchester, during the recent JEC Asia Carbon Fiber Forum in Singapore. If the most optimistic scenario is to emerge, CF suppliers will need to get a hurry-on if they have any hope of matching this booming demand, otherwise growth may be restrained by lack of supply.

Through to 2015, around 30,000 tonnes/year of small tow PAN-based CF capacity is due to be added and based on a coefficient of 0.7 to take into account actial plant operational conditions, this translates to just over 67,000 tonnes of output according to Frank Glowacz, technical editor at JEC Composites (Paris, France). Large tow capacity, meanwhile, will almost double from 22,150 tonnes/year capacity in 2011 to 43,200 tonnes/year in 2015, with output of close to 39,000 tonnes.

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