Numerous fine glass filaments together form a material called glass fiber, its types being: insulated and composite. Its base material is silica which along with other variable materials is manufactured by melting, formation, continuous filament or staple fiber process. Glass fiber uses involve: providing insulation, heat and corrosion resistance and reinforcing various materials. When this glass fiber is used in reinforcing polymer, it results in a new material called glass fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP) or fiberglass as it is commonly known and can be segmented on the raw material used: glass fiber, resins (thermoplastic or thermoset) or fillers.
Fiberglass provides the necessary strength compared to metals, without the weight and expenses and is easily moldable and less brittle. Fiberglass hand lay-up, fiberglass spray lay-up, pultrusion and chopped strand mat are construction methods of different fiberglass products. Use of fiberglass in different products varies from basic (pipes, tanks electrical, etc.) to highly specialized sectors including automotive, wind energy, defense, aerospace, transportation, marine, electronics, consumer goods and construction being the largest market. Variety in texture, weather resistant, strength and light weight attributes of fiberglass have contributed to its growing demand in the mentioned sectors. There has also been a shift in focus of firms, exploring new avenues for fiberglass usage. Apart from infrastructure, need for clean energy and emerging economies present new opportunities to the market. Expansion in the recent years in the market has also created a demand supply gap which needs to be filled using alternatives. Innovative manufacturing processes and new product development are preferred to penetrate into saturated markets and expand into new ones.
Asia Pacific dominates the global GFRP market along with North America with USA being the largest producer as well as consumer of fiberglass. Germany in Europe is the largest producer, followed by UK, Spain, Italy and France. China is the largest producer & supplier among the emerging economies, also being a top fiberglass products consumer. Emerging countries of Brazil and India have also been showing growth prospects with increase in demand. Construction sectors will drive the market in Middle East and Africa regions. Research and development activities for production of high quality and performance products are led by European nations and the USA. Market leader in this segment is Owens Corning especially after the acquisition of St. Gobain. Another strong player is China Fiberglass at second position and PPG Industries following it with third largest market share.
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