JEC Group have brought together the international community of composites leaders and executives in our Composites Circle as an unique networking opportunity to meet with both peers and future partners.
At the 2005 Sampe meeting in Long Beach last May, JEC Composites Magazine met with Airtech President Jeff Dahlgren, who was kind enough to share his view on the market.
(Published on October-November 2005 – JEC Magazine #20)
AN INTERVIEW WITH JEFF DAHLGREN, PRESIDENT OF AIRTECH EUROPE (LUXEMBOURG), TYGAVAC ADVANCED MATERIALS (UNITED KINGDOM) AND AIRTECH INTERNATIONAL (USA)
Jec Composites Magazine: “The world of Airtech” is an international one. What are your thoughts on the composite market today and tomorrow?
Jeff Dahlgren : The composite market of today has been shaped by the last six years. During the end of the 1990’s, the military and commercial aircraft industry was in decline. The terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 accelerated this decline. Manufacturers like Airtech had to find ways to make up for this drop in revenue. Out of necessity, companies aggressively diversified into other composite markets. These other markets benefited greatly from such attention, which had never been seen before. Manufacturers and suppliers had to modify their offering to these “new” industries and introduce cost-effective product lines not made to aerospace specifications. These markets in wind energy, marine, transportation, racing and re c reation are now a big part of sales for traditional aerospace material manufacturers and suppliers. With the return of commercial aviation last year, due greatly to the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 787, the composites industry is stronger and more diverse then ever before. Energy is being spent on new aircraft- grade materials and products for the general composite market. Much of the money spent today is for research and testing. Companies are open to new ideas on their projects. The future holds increased demand, as today’s prototypes will turn into tomorrow’s productions .
J.C.M.: In your opinion, what are the main markets for the US, Asia and Europe?
J. D.: In the USA, the Boeing 787, F-35, F-22, marine and general aviation projects drive the composite industry. In Asia, it is the off-set programmes from European and U.S. a i rcraft companies. In Europe, the Airbus A380, A400M, wind energy and marine industries dominate the composite markets.
J.C.M.: Which secto rs do you think will drive the market ?
J. D.: The worldwide aerospace market still drives the overall composite market, but for the first time, the general composite industry has made a major contribution. This contribution is with resin infusion, used for many years in marine and wind energy production. It has been ameeting in the middle, with general composites making a major advancement upward and the aircraft industry dropping to a less expensive process.
J.C.M.: What are the mains trends in raw materials and processes?
J. D.: The supply of raw materials is a sensitive issue today. The supply of carbon fibre and certain processing materials can limit growth this year. Capacity is being increased but will not be a factor until 2006. It seems that the cost of everything is increasing after enjoying years of “status quo”. I think material pricing pressures will continue throughout 2005.
J.C.M.: What do you think about the capability of composites to penetrate new market?
J. D.: Composites have penetrated markets I did not imagine ten years ago. Resin infusion and film infusion have been a big part of composites spreading to the marine, transportation, recreational and general composites.
I think you will see more composites in the automotive industry.
J.C.M.: What is your strategy and what can Airtech do to be better than the others?
J. D.: Airtech Advanced Material Group located in Luxembourg, the United Kingdom and the USA is a global, yet family-owned company. This allows us to manufacture a world-class product, yet adapt and change quickly to this diversifying composite market. The customer drives our business, not the bottom line.
J.C.M.: Are you involved in an investment programme in the US or in a foreign country?
J. D.: We have just finished an expansion in the U.K. and will expand in Luxembourg for the third time in 15 years. This expansion is in personnel, building size, manufacturing equipment and inform a t i o n technology. Our company mission last year was to get ready for increased demand for our product.
This year has seen most of the action items completed. This year Airtech will be introducing more multilayer vacuum bagging and release films to re d u c e costs and inexpensive resin infusion tooling systems.