In the past few years, JEC has grown in importance until it can now justifiably aspire to becoming the most important trade fair for composite materials, and not only in Europe. The impact of this event has strengthened its ambitions: it has expanded in size and in its coverage, coming gradually to represent different areas of technology and applications.
The impression is, in any case, that composite materials and their applications will continue to grow and that, in time, they will exploit the full potential of these materials, enabling them to respond in the most satisfactory way to the pressing demands of the modern world.
The visitor to the fair is immediately struck by the strong dichotomy that still exists between the applications that led to the development of this very technology, like aerospace and professional sports, and more ordinary applications, that have to do with a much wider variety of products and clients, as in the case of the automobile industry and civil engineering.
This dichotomy is significant in terms of the fibers that are used for reinforcement: carbon fibers and other special fibers on the one hand, fiberglass on the other.
Another consideration seems particularly significant to us, particularly for those who, like us, view the position of composites through the lens of the textile industry those of us, that is, who consider the world of composites as an opportunity for innovative textile processes and the textile industry in general.
The potential of textile technology, its ability to arrange fibers in space any way we wish, with simple instruments, repeatedly and in a substantially economical manner, is still not sufficiently exploited. Textile reinforcement consists, in most cases, of very short fibers for the textile scale, arranged in a haphazard fashion. The simplest textile structures (one-way fabrics and warp-weft fabrics) cover other special needs; 3D structures and other complex structures are, even today, exceptional cases and are hardly worth mentioning in industrial terms.
We believe, however, that structures with a higher textile content and specialized fibers are both destined to increase their share and significance on the market, also because the standard applications of standard composites made of fiberglass are now in an advanced stage of consolidation and in the future may be expected to start losing ground.
Perhaps it is just for that reason that producers are seeking new applications for composites and trying to innovate even fiberglass (for example, with the new hybrid yarns).
A brief comment as regards the use of composites as reinforcement for natural and recyclable fibers is in order at this point: composite materials, by their nature, are not particularly respectful of the environment. The most typical way of disposing of them is by grinding up the products at the end of their life.
To remedy this, recourse is made, though still at the level of research, to the use of natural fibers as reinforcement, or of recyclable, biodegradable fibers. This is the reasoning behind the use of resins and reinforcement made of fibers of the same polymer, so as to facilitate both disposal and recycling.
As regards Italy, it occupied an important position at this fair in terms of exhibitors, in line with the past editions, while the number of visitors seemed to be increasing. This is an impression that awaits confirmation or denial when the official statistics come out.