The carbon fiber market was valued at USD 2,471 million in 2020, and the market is projected to register a CAGR of 4% during the forecast period (2021-2026).
Due to COVID-19, the production in various industries, including automotive, construction, aerospace, etc., decreased. The global automotive supply industry has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The production and sales of motor vehicles have come to a sudden halt in most parts across the world. The aerospace and defense industry, which is a major end-user of the carbon fiber market, took a major hit in 2020, owing to COVID-19. Some players in the aerospace manufacturing industry, including Boeing and Rolls-Royce, even announced production cuts. Thus, the carbon fiber market is negatively impacted by COVID-19.
- In the medium term, the major factors driving the growth of the market studied are accelerating usage in the aerospace and defense sector and the increasing application in the wind energy sector.
- On the flip side, high prices of carbon fiber have been acting as a roadblock to the growth of the market studied.
- The increasing popularity of recycled carbon fiber is likely to act as an opportunity for the market studied over the forecast period.
- In terms of volume and value, Asia-Pacific dominated the market across the world, with China accounting for most of the demand.
Key Market Trends
Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) to Dominate the Market
- Polyacrylonitrile is the most versatile precursor for carbon fiber. Also known as Creslan 61, it is a synthetic semi-crystalline polymer resin. Almost 90% of carbon fiber is produced using PAN.
- During the production of carbon fibers, initially, the PAN precursor material is spun into a fiber form. It is then stretched and subjected to an oxidizing atmosphere and temperatures of about 200 - 240 °C for approximately 24 hours. The stabilized fibers are then heated in an inert atmosphere up to 1500 °C. Then the fibers are heated to 3000 °C in an inert environment, leading to graphitization.
- PAN is a thermoplastic resin having an uncharacteristically high melting point. PAN-based carbon fibers have a relatively higher coat than pitch-based fibers and have good mechanical properties (high tensile strength). They are preferred in major applications, owing to high carbon yield, the potential of polymer to undergo cyclization reactions, and the lowest fraction of voids, which result in higher strength and stability, along with the flexibility to tailor the structure of the final product.
- PAN is used as a precursor for the production of carbon fiber for aerospace and defense applications and the sporting equipment industry. The aerospace and defense, and sporting equipment industries are registering high growth, owing to the increasing adoption of sports and recreational activities and increasing health awareness, which is expected to drive the market for PAN as a raw material in carbon fiber through the forecast period in post-COVID-19 recovery times.
- Toray CFE, Merck KGaA, Hexcel Corporation, SABIC, and Teijin Limited are some of the major manufacturers of PAN.
- Owing to the aforementioned factors, the demand for PAN carbon fiber is expected to rise during the forecast period.
Asia-Pacific to Dominate the Market
- China is the largest manufacturer of automobiles in the world. The country's automotive sector has been shaping up for product evolution, with the country focusing on manufacturing products to ensure fuel economy and minimize emissions, owing to the increasing environmental concerns due to mounting pollution in the country. However, the market witnessed a shrink from 2018 to 2019, as the production decreased by 4.2% and 7.5% in those years, respectively. The trade war between China and the United States is the major reason for the drop in sales, along with the low domestic demand.
- However, the COVID-19 outbreak created huge uncertainty in the market, which is posing a negative trend for both the automotive market and the demand for carbon fiber in automotive applications.
- Moreover, the country's aircraft parts and assembly manufacturing sector is growing at a rapid pace, with over 200 small aircraft parts manufacturers. Major manufacturers are concentrated in Nanchang, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xi'an, Harbin, Shijiazhuang, and Shenyang. The Chinese aerospace policy represents one of the most comprehensive attempts to enter the top levels of aerospace development and production. China is expected to be the world's largest single-country market for civil aircraft sales over the next 20 years. Under the plan, 'Made in China 2025', China is expected to supply over 10% of homemade commercial aircraft to the domestic market by 2025.
- China is the world leader in new onshore and offshore wind power installations. The country ordered 50 GW of wind turbines in 2019 for both onshore and offshore projects, an increase of 39 GW compared to 2018. This demand in China is primarily driven by the expiration of the feed-in-tariff (FIT) but was also enabled by new transmission capacity and the easing of red warnings in Northern provinces.
- All the aforementioned factors are expected to increase the demand in the carbon fiber market in the region over the forecast period after the recovery of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The carbon fiber market is a consolidated market, where the top eight players accounting for more than 83% of the total global production capacity. The major companies in the carbon fiber market include Toray Industries Inc., SGL Carbon SE, Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation, Teijin Limited, and Hexcel Corporation, among others.
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