More than two years have passed since the COVID-19 outbreak, but the impact of the pandemic on manufacturing is still being felt. The entire supply chain has been disrupted, and the fiberglass industry is no exception. The shortage of composites such as fiberglass, epoxy and polyester resins in North America has been caused by shipping delays, increased shipping and container costs, reduced regional exports from China, and lower customer demand.
Even with supply chain issues, the U.S. fiberglass market grew 10.8 percent in 2021, with demand increasing to 2.7 billion pounds, compared to 2.5 billion pounds in 2020. The construction, plumbing and storage, electrical and electronics, wind energy, consumer goods and boat applications markets grew significantly in 2021, while the aerospace market declined.
The fiberglass industry in the United States has benefited greatly from the growth of the wind industry in 2021. This is because many wind projects are working in time to qualify for the tax exemption before the production tax credit expires at the end of the year. As part of the COVID-19 relief package, the U.S. government expanded its PTC to 60 percent of the total credit for wind power projects that begin construction on December 31, 2021. Lucintel estimates that the U.S. wind market will grow 8% in 2021, after double-digit growth in 2020.
The boat market has also grown as consumers seek safe, socially-free outdoor leisure activities during the pandemic, with the U.S. Marine fiberglass market estimated to grow 18% in 2021.
In terms of supply and demand in the fiberglass industry, the capacity utilization rate in 2021 increased from 85% in 2020 to 91% due to the increase in fiberglass consumption in end-application areas. Global fiberglass production capacity in 2021 is 12.9 billion pounds (5,851,440 tons). Lucintel expects fiberglass plants to reach 95% capacity utilization by 2022.
In the next 15 to 20 years, there will be substantial innovation in the fiberglass industry, especially in high-strength, high-modulus glass fibers that compete with other high-performance fibers such as carbon fiber. Lightweight and reducing carbon emissions will be the two market drivers leading future innovation.
For example, lightweight solutions are becoming increasingly important in the wind energy market thanks to the increasing number of offshore wind turbines, the re-generating of old turbines, and the installation of more high-capacity turbines in locations that receive high-speed winds. Across the wind market, the average size of wind turbines continues to grow, driving demand for larger and stronger blades, which in turn fuels demand for lighter and stronger materials. Several companies, including Owens Corning and China Megalithic, have developed high-modulus glass fibers to meet market demand.
Glass fiber reinforced composites are an important part of the boating sector and new technologies are changing the face of the market. Moi Composites has developed an advanced 3D technology to produce MAMBO (Electric Incremental Manufacturing Vessel). The 3D-printed motor boat is made of continuous fiberglass reinforced thermosetting composite material and is 6.5 meters long. It has no hull deck division and presents a concave and convex shape that is not possible with conventional composite manufacturing methods. The boating industry has also taken steps to improve sustainability. RS Electric Boat has developed the first fully electric rigid inflatable boat (RIB) with fiberglass and recycled carbon fibre as the main structural components.
All in all, fiberglass applications in various industries are expected to recover from the harmful effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The transportation, construction, pipeline and tank markets, especially for boats, will play an important role in restoring the US fiberglass market to pre-pandemic conditions. Taken together, the U.S. fiberglass market is expected to achieve strong growth in 2022 and fully recover from the impact of the pandemic.
Post time: Feb-06-2023