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With conventional materials, production consists only in shaping the materials. In composite product manufacturing, on the other hand, the material itself is also being produced during shaping. For this reason, the use of composites as a serious competitor for conventional materials is spreading faster and faster in Turkey.
By Ismail Hakki Hacialioglu, Chairman, Turkish Composites Manufacturers Association.
Just like other sectors, the Turkish composite sector has developed rapidly in parallel with the global economic development, under the effect of the last decade's political stability.Developments in TurkeyAs elsewhere in the world, the growth of the Turkish composite sector is benefiting from the material substitution trend, but at an even higher rate than in Europe and the rest of the world. In the years before the crisis, growth rates in Turkey were as high as 8-12%, and since then, they have ranged between 9% and 10%.
The Turkish composite sector currently employs some 5,000 people, who work in 150-200 medium-sized to large companies, as well as 700-800 companies that are only partially involved in the composite business. Overall production amounts to 200,000 metric tons, for a value of one billion euros.
A look at composite consumption amounts per capita (seen as a development criterion) reveals major opportunities within the country. This amount is about 2.5 kg in Turkey, compared to 4-10 kg worldwide. And the average price is €5/kg in Turkey, compared to €8/kg worldwide. These figures should constitute an advantage for the country in the near future.
In Turkey, composite materials are used predominantly in pipe and tank production, as well as in the building and construction industries. Parallel to the accelerated use of advanced technology products, the growing use of composite materials in higher proportions is expected especially in the wind energy, transportation, automotive, aerospace and electrical & electronics sectors.
Turkey has a long way to go in the manufacture of products that require machinery and advanced technology. GRP pipe production (around 50%), which is contributing to drive the composite sector in the country, thanks to demand from neighbouring countries, will remain stable in the near future. The market share of pultrusion, SMC-BMC and thermoplastic injection processes is expected to grow. RTM will continue to develop, especially in the wind energy, maritime, automotive, transportation and water slides sectors.
Forecasts for the upcoming periodDue to their capacity to meet diverse expectations in a broad range of application fields, composite materials are in ever more widespread use in Turkey. The composite applications with high growth potential in Turkey are as follows:
The use of carbon fibre has rapidly claimed a 12% share in composite applications worldwide, and is gradually being included in more applications here due to its low weight and high resistance properties.
Considering the limited number of carbon fibre producers in the world, the presence of a major producer in Turkey gives the country an advantage for carbon fibre applications, compared to other countries.
Anticipating the benefits to be reaped in this area, AKSA and Dow Chemicals are partnering for a project that will involve investing $1 billion in Turkey over the next 10 years. The project will start by increasing carbon fibre capacity to 3,000 tons and providing support and incentives for advanced applications and investments in an “Advanced Technology Free Zone” already being established in the Yalova region.
Worldwide, carbon fibre is predominantly used in the industrial, aerospace, defence and sports equipment sectors. Applications where this material is particularly used include wind turbine blades, plastics for electronics, pressurized vessels, automotive parts, building and construction reinforcement, and maritime and oil platforms.
A rapid increase in carbon fibre use is anticipated in Turkey, primarily in the above-listed areas, as investment and production both increase.
Global warming also brings drought along with it. In order to solve this problem, irrigation investments are on the increase in both the Middle East and Turkey. As infrastructure requirements grow, especially for irrigation projects, glass fibre reinforced polyester (GRP) pipe production is developing, particularly in China, India, the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.
It is estimated that these markets will grow 8-10% per year on average over the upcoming period. GRP pipes are being used more and more in water projects. Pipes up to 4 metres in diameter are currently being produced in Turkey.
Reducing the carbon emissions of vehicles is becoming a priority for the automotive sector. The simplest method appears to be the manufacture of lighter vehicles. The strategic plans of many firms in the sector include vehicle weight and cost reduction and the use of more composites to cut down on fuel consumption.
Global automotive production is providing a major opportunity for Turkey as it spreads from North to South and from West to East.
As greenhouse cultivation develops, obstacles to cutting-edge greenhouse investments have been eliminated and incentives have been implemented in recent years in Turkey, paving the way for greenhouse producers.
New technologies have allowed cheaper, more durable cutting-edge applications in greenhouse production. In this context, GRP greenhouse applications are becoming more widespread, both in Turkey and worldwide.
Corrugated GRP plates offer many advantages: they are flexible, light, impact resistant and transparent, allowing a homogenous distribution of natural light; can be used alone or with any roof material; are resistant to chemicals and UV radiation; and offer film-coated production opportunities.
The energy crisis, starting in the 21st century with the depletion of fossil-fuel and especially oil resources, has placed clean, renewable energy on the agenda. Renewable energy sources include solar, geothermal, hydrogen, biomass, hydroelectric, wave and wind energy.
Of these, wind energy accounts for a large share, and Turkey is in the lead in Europe among countries with the highest wind potential. The key elements of a wind turbine are the rotor blades and the generator that produces the power.
Wind turbine blades are made of composites with high mechanical strength. Epoxy, which is least affected by environmental impacts, is used as a matrix and carbon, aramid and glass fibres are used to ensure fatigue strength. Due to its performance and advantageous price, glass fibre is particularly sought after. However, the demand for carbon fibre to strengthen the blades is gradually increasing as blade lengths are extended from 40 metres to 65 metres in response to increases in turbine capacities.
Wind energy should register growth of up to 18-20% in the near future, as it is being counted on to relieve the energy bottleneck in Turkey.
Significant growth is expected in the production of solar energy as a renewable source, so solar panels should be an important market for composite materials.
Although still at an initial stage, prototype trials of composite materials are giving positive results. It is likely that in the near future, composites will replace steel as reinforcement in hospital construction, especially because steel blocks electromagnetic signals. A 20% growth is anticipated in this area. Construction reinforcement is a developing market, especially for countries in seismic zones. Common reinforcement applications are available for new building designs, for historical buildings and for rehabilitating old buildings against earthquake risks, and for critical infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels, airports and hospitals. Woven and technical glass- and carbon-fibre textiles, and the composite structural profiles made of these materials are being used more commonly.
The demand for composite heating pipes used in gas-fired combination boiler systems is growing significantly. The capacity of the firms producing for this application field is also increasing.
Thermoplastic resins, especially when reinforced with fibres, offer unique advantages for composite products. Designers are focusing on the properties of thermoplastic composites to increase product performance and lower production costs. Thermoplastic resins are structurally robust and exhibit extraordinary impact resistance. They reach their maximum hardness when cooled. Due to these features, they can contribute to reduce the cost of parts. Thermoplastics are recyclable and applications for them are developing rapidly, especially in the automotive market. Reinforced thermoplastics account for 36% in value and 38% in volume of the world’s composite production. In Turkey, this rate is still around 10%, so the country has room to develop in thermoplastics.
This is a dynamic sector in Europe. Asian boat manufacturers are establishing partnerships with their European counterparts, and they are playing a greater role in Europe’s boat industry. The number of boat manufacturers producing large boats is gradually increasing, and they are now manufacturing boats longer than 30m. In parallel with this development, there is also some movement in Turkey.
Due to the advantages of glass mat reinforced thermoplastics (GMT), car roof applications for them are growing faster than for polyurethane.