Little Falls, New Jersey — The market for natural fiber thermoplastic composites has experienced exceptional growth in recent years with U.S. demand exceeding $200 million in 1999. These products represent one of the most rapidly growing segments of the composites market with growth exceeding 25% per year over the past several years, according to Kline & Company, Inc., a Little Falls, NJ-based management consulting firm.
Natural fiber composites include a variety of fiber products, including wood fiber, wood flour, shell fibers, flax fibers, and other agricultural fibers compounded into thermoplastics. According to Carl Eckert, senior vice president at Kline, “Historically these fibers were relegated to niche applications in thermoset polymers. But in recent years, the market has exploded in such thermoplastics as polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, and engineering thermoplastics.” Compared to fiberglass and other common reinforcements, natural fibers offer composite producers a lower cost, lower performance alternative that can also reduce weight and improve processing and surface appearance.
Demand has been driven by a variety of construction- and building-related products, including decking, window and door profiles, and furniture. However, natural fiber thermoplastic composites are even finding their way into automotive, marine, and other higher performance applications. In 1999 a good two-thirds of demand was focused on building products, but in the last 18 months automotive panels and several new industrial applications for natural fiber composites have been introduced.
Fabricators/end users of natural fiber thermoplastics composites include such well-known names as Anderson Window, Louisiana Pacific, CertainTeed Corporation, and Boise Cascade. But the market is also crowded with smaller and emerging producers, such as Trex Corporation, Crane Plastics, U.S. Plastic Container, and dozens of others. Suppliers of fibers are generally forest product-related firms, but they also include such agricultural-related companies as Cargill.
Kline’s proposed study, Opportunities for Natural Fibers in Plastic Composites, 1999, will assess the current and forecast market for almost a dozen natural fibers in all types of thermoplastic applications, including building products, automotive, marine, and appliances. The study will also profile leading producers of both fibers and composites and identify growth opportunities.
Established in 1959, Kline is an international business consulting firm serving the chemicals and materials industries. The company is considered the leading consultancy on reinforcements and fillers for plastics and composite materials.
For more information, contact:
Kline & Company, Inc
150 Clove Rd
Little Falls, NJ 07424