Fibre-reinforced plastics in infrastructure and construction projects

Source: AVK

AVK Composites

Fibre-reinforced plastics in infrastructure and construction projects

Composites – unknown to some, yet well established.

 

Fibre-reinforced plastics – also known as composites – are now largely known for their enormous potential in lightweight construction. As construction materials, they are receiving major attention from the general public, particularly in the areas of transport, automotive and aviation engineering. Driven by numerous research and marketing activities, composites are being stylised into materials of the future, serving innovative solutions and ideas. In this context, however, one often forgets that fibre-reinforced plastics are more than “just” lightweight construction materials. These unique materials have so many positive and unparalleled qualities that they have found their way into many other fields of application – often without being noticed.

GRP production in Europe (source: Real GDP & Industry Production, DESTATIS)

Fig. 1: GRP production in Europe (source: Real GDP & Industry Production, DESTATIS)

 

A close look at the manufacturing volume of composites in Europe over a period of 10 years (see Fig. 1) shows that production and growth have generally been developing similarly to the economy as a whole. The only figures that have been far more pronounced in the development are the outliers. This in itself is an important indication that – in national economic terms – composites must have been flowing into a very broad range of applications.

 

GRP production in Europe

Fig. 2: GRP production in Europe

 

Such findings are borne out by the latest key indicators (see Fig. 2). About one third of all the GRP materials [glass-fibre reinforced plastics, excluding short fibre reinforced thermoplastics] produced in Europe are used in transport. A similarly large customer segment can be observed in infrastructure and construction – an area which is often simply “overlooked”. In this segment components are receiving less prominent emphasis and promotion. Yet here, too, composites have become the material of choice (and indeed often as a well-established material), thanks to properties such as excellent media resistance, outstanding anticorrosion properties and their ability to allow optimum load-specific design.

Some typical areas of application include pipe, tank and plant engineering. In 2016 nearly 170,000 tonnes of material were used for this purpose in Europe. In addition, there are numerous applications in profile design. They include above all banisters, ladders and steps (see, for instance, www.pultruders.com). But products are particularly also used in areas that involve aggressive media. They include applications in contact with seawater as well as in sewage plants. Gratings are used in chemical engineering, on ships and on maritime work platforms. By now, the Netherlands, for instance, is building several hundred bridges each year, based almost entirely on GRP materials.

Application in this growing market segment is especially helped by combinations of light, yet highly robust materials and the fact that they are relatively low maintenance and extremely weatherproof. Over and above these applications, which are well established in many areas, we can also see some first use in structural engineering. Façade elements can now be found, and indeed also front doors, gates, fences and panelling elements.

At the moment the market is experiencing a strong increase in specific applications and/or production processes. These include, for instance, pultrusion, a method for creating profiles in a continuous process. This positive trend was also reflected in a recent market survey conducted by Composites Germany – www.composites-germany.org .

 

GRP production in Europe

Fig. 3: Growth drivers of composites

 

When asked about growth drivers in fibre composites, respondents placed infrastructure/construction in third place, after automotive and aviation. 35% are expecting growth in this segment, and only 3% are anticipating a decline (see Fig. 3).
Would you like to find out more about applications, options and trends? Then you’ll have an opportunity on 10 April when AVK is giving a free roadshow on the subject of “GRP Profiles and Reinforcement Systems” in Frankfurt.
It will be followed a month later, on 3 and 4 May, by a specialist conference in Dresden, entitled “GRP in Pipe, Tank and Plant Engineering”. Experts from the industry will provide information about the latest developments. The programme will also include guided tours of companies.

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