Natural fiber composites are composite materials made of polymer resins reinforced by natural fiber. It possesses the physical and high mechanical performance of the fiber and the appearance, bonding and physical properties of polymer. Design possibilities are numerous owing to the wide range of manufacturing processes, each resulting into specific quality product. Manufacturing process and composite products can be chosen to best fit the environment in which the product is to be made and used. Natural fibers are emerging as better alternatives to glass fibers owing to their low cost, light weight, and superior environment-friendly qualities. High-strength natural fibers such as jute, oil palm, sisal, hemp, and flax are used in the production of NFCs.
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NFCs can be tailored according to end-user needs by selecting specific material and process. This is one of the major advantages of NFC. The product can be optimized in terms of cost, weight, properties and manufacturing time. NFCs are renewable and biodegradable. Additionally, they possess low density and low processing costs vis-à-vis synthetic materials. NFC possess good thermal and acoustic insulating properties. Production of NFCs requires less investment, less energy, and is less hazardous. Thus, it is ideal for usage in low-wage countries. Automotive and construction industries are the two major consumers of NFCs. Demand for NFCs is expected to rise at a rapid pace due to the increase in sales of automobiles in developing countries such as India and China. NFCs have the potential to boost the rural economy due to their widespread usage and low production cost. The usage of NFCs in biomedical and bioengineering fields is increasing owing to their biodegradability, biocompatibility, varied functions, manufacturability, and mechanical and thermal properties.
Based on polymer matrix, the NFC market can be segmented into thermoset matrix composite and thermoplastic matrix composite. Methods such as extrusion, injection molding, and compression can be used to process thermoset matrix composites. Methods such as compression molding, pultrusion, resin transfer molding (RTM), and sheet molding compound (SMC) can be used to process thermoplastic matrix composites.
In terms of application, the NFC market can be divided into automotive, electrical & electronics, sports goods, construction, defense, and transportation. NFCs are used in door panels, seat backs, trunk liners, head liners, and dashboards under the automotive segment. Major automotive manufacturers such as BMW, Volvo, Ford, and Toyota use NFCs in various parts of vehicles. NFCs are also used in mobile cases, laptop cases, and various other accessories in the electrical & electronics industry. NFCs are used in the manufacture of sporting goods such as tennis rackets, bicycles, window and door frames, and snowboards. Door panels, decking, railing, and window frames can be made of NFCs in the construction market. NFCs are also used in structural parts of military jets due their low weight and high performance properties.
Based on geography, the NFC market can be classified into Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, Latin America, and Middle East and Africa. Europe and North America are major regions of the NFC market. Europe leads in terms of usage of NFCs in the automotive industry, while North America dominates the usage in the construction industry. Automobile and construction industries are expanding at a rapid pace in China and India. Thus, Asia Pacific is anticipated to emerge as the leading region of the NFC market during the forecast period. Latin America offers immense potential for the NFC market.
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Key players operating in the NFC market are FlexForm Technologies, UFP Technologies, International Paper, Westrock Co., BASF SE, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, UPM, and Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies, Inc.
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