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High-Performance Structural Fibers for Advanced Polymer Matrix Composites
Mpsi) fiber and $17 per pound for an intermediate-modulus (42 Mpsi) fiber. The DoD market was just under 10 percent of the total U.S. market and 4 percent of the world market.
Military usage is a decreasing share of the total U.S. carbon fiber market—from 43 percent in 1989 to 9 percent in 2003. Because the military usage in the total market is ever smaller—currently less than 4 percent of the world market—the installed integrated capacity in North America is adequate to supply all projected DoD needs for the next decade. In addition, the fiber modulus and strength properties of current production meet DoD's performance requirements for the near term. For the suppliers, this increasingly tight market is expected to lead to pricing structures that could support sustainable reinvestment. For the buyers, in cases where DoD relies on a sole source, prices could remain high.
Significant demand from DoD combined with a technological design shift toward lighter-denier products is expected to strain existing capacity for structural organic fibers. Additional military and homeland security applications are also emerging. In particular, the demand for organic fibers is currently high to satisfy the military's need for body armor and crew protection kits for tactical vehicles. This demand is predicted to remain high for 2 years and then decrease gradually.
A few companies continue to invest in new carbon fiber technologies. This investment has been primarily in process improvements and better manufacturing controls to decrease variability and reduce cost rather than to improve properties. Because of this trend, any change in carbon fiber properties is expected to be evolutionary, not revolutionary. Any impact of new lower-cost technology is at least 10 years away.
In the organic fiber area, M5 fiber has the potential to become a commercial fiber with a step improvement in functionality, especially to address the need for optimized structural and ballistic properties of interest to DoD. M5 has the potential to meet the future structural and ballistic needs of the Army. Existing fibers, such as Kevlar, have good ballistic properties but poor properties in compression. M5 could be an enabling technology for a new generation of soldier protection systems.
Finally, although significant progress has been made in improving fiber and matrix properties and reducing material costs, similar progress has not been achieved in manufacturing technology and innovative design to lower the cost of composite structures. Composite processing remains a major opportunity for improvement.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Accelerating technology transition has been identified as a key target.
One method to speed new fiber technologies to market, especially for such new fibers as M5® or nanocomposite fibers, would be for DoD to provide a guaranteed initial purchase order if the pilot product meets specified property and price requirements.
In the near term, DoD should provide significant funding to purchase M5 fiber and rapidly evaluate its properties and applications.
Cost reduction has been identified as a key target.
A clearly significant way to reduce fiber costs over the next 10 years is to reduce or modify the aerospace specifications and qualification process. The DoD should review existing and new qualifications and material specification documents and reduce testing and quality requirements where possible.
To reduce acquisition costs, all major DoD programs that use fiber or prepreg should have two qualified sources.
To reduce manufacturing costs in aircraft structures, DoD should invest in manufacturing technology and innovative design concept development. Promising ways to improve dimensional tolerance and reduce processing variability include investment in new continuous process controls that would contribute to controlling fiber structure and purity, prepreg properties such as fiber weight per unit length, and overall property variability.