Making composites mainstream in India

Composites are materials formed using two or more discretely identified materials (e.g. a polymer binder with reinforcement in polymer composites) to obtain specific properties that are superior to the individual material. Wood is a natural composite of cellulose fiber and lignin.

For our better understanding, we define Composites as Fibre Reinforced Polymers (FRP), which are:

  • Chopped continuous filament/ roving reinforced composites
  • Typically based on Glass Fibres (GF), Carbon Fibres (CF) and other reinforced fibres such as Aramid (Para/Meta) and Natural Fibres such as Basalt.

Globally, composites is a USD 36 billion market, and is expected to grow at around 10% y-o-y given the potential user sectors’ market (Aerospace & Defence, Transportation, etc.) and regulatory drivers (emission norms, safety). However, FRP composites’ adoption in India has been relatively muted with market size less than USD 500 million due to limited demand side (lack of awareness on composites) and supply side issues (poor technology adoption, lack of value chain ecosystem, delivery capability, cost, etc.). The per capita consumption of composites in India is around 0.25 Kg, against 2.2 kg in China and 10 kg in US.

The table below represents various applications of composites and their advantages:

 

The Indian Composite sector is muted because of low awareness in technology, process, and products; lack of standardization; low technology adoption- India still follows the hand lay-up process due to cheap labor which kills consistent quality and also does not work on advanced applications; no designated institutions available for providing training on skills, process, research & development and advancement in innovation.

Further, on the raw materials side such as Carbonfibres (CF), we are 100% dependent on imports and these possess strategic risk of supply stoppage, also, India cannot import freely CF/Pre-pegs without specifying end- use and need supplier country’s permission if intended for Defence end-use. India has local glass fibre manufacturing of E- Glass (around 90%), which have applications in B&C, Marine and Rail. Also, surplus capacity in China and Government subsidies enable Chinese to be more competitive with Indian local suppliers, due to which imports contribute about 25% of India’s demand.

Clearly, composites is a promising & strategic sector and need interventions by Academic Institutions, Industry and Government for developing a clear cut road – map for growth. CII has formed a Working Group on Composites represented by various stakeholders to suggest means to catalyse composites adoption in India.

 

Source: Mission Manufacturing Newsletter May 2017

 

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