Korea’s domestic market driving fiberglass industry growth

In terms of both volume and value, Korea still has a way to go, but the trend is positive for fiberglass materials. The statistics indicate a steady advance, and value-added processes are gaining ground.

In 2004, the Korea Reinforced Plastics Association registered about 650 manufacturers, spread out over South Korea’s six regions.

An industry getting its bearings

The output by sector for 2004 was estimated at 142,000 MT, excluding marble (about 65,000 MT). This included 85,000 MT for unsaturated polyester resin, 45,000 MT for glass fibre and 12,000 MT for fillers. The sectors concerned are building and construction, water supply, sewage and environment, general engineering and industrial, electricity/ electronics, marine and boat, transportation, corrosion-resistant equipment, and others. So far, aerospace and sports & leisure are absent as distinct categories. The heading “Others” accounts for 9% of the total, with 13,000 MT.

Specific dynamics

In terms of weight for user sectors, it is interesting to use a percentage to note the differences between the Korean market and the Asia-Pacific market as a whole*. For example, the leading Korean sector is building and construction, with a 30% share of the market; yet that sector accounts for only about 15% of the Asia- Pacific market. The second leading sector in Korea has a 27% share and is called “water supply, sewage and environment”, while this category is absent as such in the Asia-Pacific zone; the corresponding sector there is infrastructure and public works, and it has only an 8% share.

Towards greater process control

The data on the processes used in the Korean composite industry for converting composite materials are very symptomatic of the stage of development there.

Hand lay-up still accounts for about 50% of the volume, and spray-up, for 6%; compare this to the roughly 17% for both processes in the Asia-Pacific zone!

Still, SMC/BMC in Korea accounts for a full 24% and closed-mould processes, 3%, signalling a trend towards valueadded processes. That is consistent with the evolution worldwide.

Diverse applications

With the passing years and innovations, composite materials have carved out a place in Korea and can now be found in many different sectors.

By type of process, the most common applications are:
– door trim, ceiling boards, auto parts and counter tops for SMC/BMC;
– tent poles; C.S.M. and bridge profiles for pultrusion;
– fibre-reinforced acrylics, cooling towers, water tanks and bathtubs for laminating;
– S.F. tanks, pipes, chemical tanks and FRP pipes for filament winding;
– auto parts, sink bowls and wind-turbine blades for RTM/RIM; and
– transportation, LNG tankers, wall panels and train parts for flame-retardant materials.

A few sectors stand out for their rapid growth. There is a strong demand for applications such as wind-turbine blades, double-decker coaches, FRP pipes and optical-cable strength members.

Trends and goals

Frequently, not all segments in a single industry may grow at the same speed; some stagnate or even regress while others are booming. This is currently the case in Korea, where the septic-tank, water-tank, bathtub, tent-pole and fishing-boat segments are declining even as the FRP pipe, cure-in-place pipe, flame-retardant, C.S.M./profile, door-trim and anti-corrosion segments are showing significant growth.

In the highly competitive environment, the composite industry must tackle three challenges: organising the substitution for other materials, seeking value-added products, and finding environment-friendly solutions.

On 02, 7, 2012, posted in: FRP 2014 News by

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