Their lightweight feature, offering fuel efficiency, remains the primary factor-driving uptake of the technology in the aerospace sector. Since the 1970s, composites witnessed widespread adoption in the aerospace industry, replacing pure glass, aluminum, steel and titanium-based parts. Composites also manufacture easily on a large scale.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (technicalinsights.frost.com), Aerospace Composites, finds that technology adoption in aerospace occurs based on specific application needs. Changing value chain relationships evolve into excellent opportunities for aerospace companies. This associates with increased funding support for extensive research in identifying new technologies.
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"The Canadian, Australian and United States governments have taken a proactive stance to promote environmental protection and actively fund research in composites used in aerospace applications, " notes Technical Insights Research Analyst Chandralekha. "In order to achieve fuel efficiency, big as well as small participants in the aerospace sector are gradually increasing the use of composites in different parts of aircraft."
Although composites were developed during the 1930s, their applications were limited to making molds or dies for prototype aircraft components and tooling for aircraft. These first-of-their-kind composites consisted of glass fibers reinforced with phenolic resins. During World War II, the applications of these composites extended to fabrication of aircraft parts, such as ducts (of diverse shapes), engine nacelles and radomes.
Despite the tangible benefits they offer, composites possess some disadvantages that restrain market progression. Composites replace metals in aircraft parts; however, repairing them involves some technicalities, unlike metals. It is necessary to detect and repair this damage as well as properly certify the product. Each intricate stage requires expert knowledge, which is not readily available.
Issues such as delimitation of composites prove difficult to detect and necessitate sensors and other complex detection systems. On the contrary, any damage in metal parts mend easily using the traditional welding technique.
To move market prospects forward, research efforts must elevate to understand the properties of composites under normal as well as stress conditions. It is also necessary to identify new testing and damage detection systems. The results of such efforts provide proper training and assistance to industrial participants. In addition, this expands the expertise of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) companies with regard to composites.
The market witnessed a series of mergers and acquisitions (M&A's) among composite suppliers, distributors, parts manufacturers and original equipment manufacturers. In light of the economic downturn, governments expect to trim military budgets. Companies that invested in military projects will currently be looking to enter the commercial aviation sector through M&As.
"As composites and their applications provide growth prospects in an already mature market, M&A's of private research bodies and small companies provide a strategic entry point, " says Technical Insights Industry Analyst Krishna Venkataramani. "Such initiatives lead to the integration of technology and product expertise and result in durable and better performing aircraft structures."
Aerospace Composites, a part of the Technical Insights subscription, provides an overview of the emerging trends in the market, focusing on industrial and governmental activities in the composites sector. Further, this research service includes detailed technology analysis and industry trends evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.
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Aerospace Composites / D23B