Looking through the contents of the May/June issue of Reinforced Plastics (which goes to print next week) it’s good to see that many of the articles offer upbeat prospects for the composites industry. 

Owens Corning, for one, is optimistic about 2013.

“Our view is that the worst of the European crisis is over, that the emerging economies which did not perform as expected last year – mainly India and Latin America – are recovering, and the US is entering into a strong phase of growth, “ says Arnaud Genis, Group President of the Owens Corning Composite Solutions Business, in an interview published in the May/June edition. (See Interview: Owens Corning optimistic for 2013.)

The magazine also includes a feature outlining some of the factors driving the US composites market forward (see US composites market on the up), and a look at how the UK is putting its ‘Composites Strategy’ into action (see The UK composites industry – turning ideas into investments).

Turning to application areas, analyst Frost & Sullivan examines the prospects for the marine composites market (see Adoption of marine composites – a global perspective), and we also review the progress of the latest passenger aircraft employing composite materials (see Composites poised to transform airline economics – Part 1).

These aircraft include the much anticipated A350 XWB – the first Airbus aircraft to be over 50 wt% composite –which is scheduled to take its maiden flight this summer. At the time of writing the first A350 had just emerged from the paintshop in its Airbus livery and was about to start the final tests leading up to its first flight. This will mark the culmination of eight years of materials R&D, and huge investment in production facilities, for Hexcel, whose composite materials are being used on the aircraft’s primary structures (see Hexcel's composites ready to fly on the A350 XWB).

Meanwhile the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (also 50% composites) is back in business, following the grounding of in-service aircraft earlier this year after safety concerns. The FAA has approved modifications to the aircraft’s battery system and Boeing has started installing these. Once these modifications are made grounded 787s will be able to return to service, and deliveries of new aircraft can re-commence (see Boeing to begin modifying 787s as FAA approves battery improvements). Boeing has also ramped up the Dreamliner’s production rate to seven aircraft per month. 

This increased demand for composites is leading to record levels of mergers and acquisitions, according to a new report.

“The driving force behind this trend will be raw materials manufacturers looking to secure component production capacity, alongside OEMs who will be leveraging partnerships to access key technologies,” states Mark Humphries, partner at Catalyst Corporate Finance.

"We also expect to see not only trade buyers active in the market, but increasing interest from private equity who will see the sector as an opportunity to develop buy and build platforms or acquire businesses to build their portfolio in the sector.” (See Demand for composites leads to £2.3b record mergers and acquisitions.) ♦

Amanda Jacob is the Editor of Reinforced Plastics magazine.