Opportunities & challenges facing the booming British composites industry
The development of advanced materials that are fit for the future is top of the agenda in a number of industries, most notably in automotive where lightweighting requirements are predicted to bring about a ten-fold increase in the production of composite parts by 2030. Safe to say, this is a topic that dominates many of the conversations we have at OAS.
It was therefore a useful exercise to visit the Composites UK Annual Conference at Manchester University recently to hear about the opportunities and challenges that are currently facing the British composites industry and to get an insight into how the supply chain can be developed and supported.
There were a number of presentations at the conference and the overriding theme I picked up on straight away was that the composites market is developing at an extraordinary rate of knots. And that means there are significant growth opportunities for UK manufacturing businesses at the heart of it. Great news, I hear you say!
Well, it is. But there is a caveat. This explosion in development is happening right now. And UK businesses need to make sure they’re in a position to capitalise today, rather than tomorrow. If they do, there is realistic scope for excelling at a global level and that’s too good an opportunity to pass up. The advice to business leaders is to be prepared, hunt out the composite opportunities and make them happen.
It was also clear at the conference that we need to up our game when it comes to finding a use for end of life materials. More and more composites are being discarded – either through production wastage or end of life recycling – and we need to find better uses for them. Landfill isn’t a viable answer.
By investing in the right technology and collaborating with the right partners, these waste materials can be transformed into new composites that could, just maybe, fill certain gaps on the OEM’s ever-expanding shopping list of materials that are required to bring Global Emissions Targets a little nearer.
If the UK composites industry can improve the processing of existing materials and continue to innovate as part of a multi-year strategy by developing new ‘affordable composite’ materials, we’ll be on to a winner.
And if we get that right, the transition towards the production of parts in batches of thousands to hundreds of thousands and then on to millions will become a reality. That will guarantee our place as an industry that’s fit for the future – and not just our advanced materials.