Global glass fiber industry expected to rise in 2019

There's nowhere to go but up for the global glass fiber industry as industry analysts expect the market to rise through 2019 due to increasing demand from emerging economies, most notably in the North American and Asia Pacific regions.

A recent report from MicroMarket Monitor pointed out that the global glass fiber prepreg market will reach $1,453.7 million by 2019, up from $1,014 million in 2014. This will record a CAGR of 7.5 percent. Glass fiber prepreg – a fibrous material pre-impregnated with a particular synthetic resin used in making reinforced plastics – is a unique textile material that is often the best all-purpose choice among reinforcements for creating composite parts with excellent strength, low weight, and dimensional stability.

Similarly, a new report from BCC Research showed that glass fiber reinforced plastics (GFRP) will grow from $31.4 billion in 2014 to almost $44.4 billion by 2019, having a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.1 percent between 2014 and 2019. Glass fibers are reinforced with a polymer matrix in order to produce GFRP, which has a higher strength-to-weight ratio compared to steel and aluminum. It also possesses impressive properties like scratch resistance, corrosion resistance, insulation, and low susceptibility to moisture. GFRPs also reduce energy consumption in the aerospace, defense, and automotive industries, thus, contributing to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles.

The GFRP sector is often applied in construction of infrastructure, automotive, and aerospace and defense markets, which account for 67 percent of the global market of GFRP in 2013. According to BCC Research, North America and the Asia Pacific regions are currently the largest producers and consumers of glass fiber and GFRP composites, with both of the regions together accounting for more than 50 percent of the global market for glass fiber.

Asian demand

One factor that is driving the growth of GFRP in the Asia Pacific region is increasing construction and infrastructure activity coming from China and India. These countries are anticipated to drive GFRP demand in the next six years. Meanwhile, the North American market is primarily driven by rising personal income, expanding vehicle sales, developing demand for renewable energy sources, revival of aerospace and defense industry, and overall global economic recovery in the United States.

However, glass fiber and its composites are facing challenges from increasing prices of raw materials. The primary component of glass fiber is sand, but it also includes varying quantities of feldspar, sodium sulfate, anhydrous borax, and boric acid, among other materials. Sand mining is prevalent in countries like Australia, India, New Zealand, Sierra Leone, and the US, although practices are highly regulated because it is the direct cause of erosion.

As for feldspar, one prospective source is the Cerro Blanco Project operated by Chilean-based rutile miner White Mountain Titanium Corporation (OTCQB: WMTM). According to the company, it can mine up to five tons of feldspar byproduct for every ton of rutile, which could amount to a total of 750,000 tons of feldspar per year. White Mountain's resources are sufficient enough to support a mine operation for at least 20 years, ensuring a steady supply of feldspar for glass fiber manufacturers.