Composite materials are playing an increasingly important role in the global economy. This rapid growth is mainly based on the innovative strength of this sector and its players. The JECWorld 2019 exhibition, which was held in Paris from 12 to 14 March, was a great showcase for this subject, with more than 1,300 exhibitors from all over the world. Among them was a Luxembourg delegation that proudly displayed the country’s colours on the national pavilion, organised by the Ministry of the Economy.

Backed by the non-profit organisation Composite Industry Luxembourg (CIL), nine Luxembourg companies (AirTech, DuPont de Nemours, GLC Technologies, Goodyear, Glanzstoff, Molecular Plasma Group, e-Xstream, Ocsial and Reichert Technology Partners) presented their innovation in processes, new materials and composite solutions. All took advantage of the visibility provided by JEC to initiate contacts and identify potential partners.

For Paul Meyers, Managing Director and Works Director at DuPont de Nemours and President of the CIL, “Luxembourg clearly has a card to play, which is why we had to be present at this show. Launched just one year ago, the CIL needs to make a name for itself. “We are still in the start-up phase. JEC is a good tool to highlight both the strengths of the national composite industry and the country’s strengths. We made it off the starting blocks and we have made very good contacts. At this stage, we can’t talk about new members yet, but discussions are ongoing with several of them.

Playing in the big league

More and more participants each year agree that JEC World has become an essential tool for maintaining contacts and maintaining customer relations. “We can’t miss this meeting. For us, JEC is one of the best places to see all our international customers in one place. In parallel, we organised a conference focused on providing updates and a dinner to which the top management of our main customers was invited”, explains Roger Assaker, CEO of e-Xstream and member of the CIL.

The same is true for Caro Bach, Sales Director Aviation OEM at CTI Systems: “We had even more interesting discussions this year. It is not only sales that take place at the show, but sometimes it is a contact that leads to another business opportunity. For example, we met a very active fibre producer in France, China and the United States. We were not really interested in their products as such, but during the discussions, we learned that they have storage needs.

For Molecular Plasma Group, the presence at JEC has even been essential for the start-up’s growth. “Last year was our first participation in a composite exhibition and our visibility took off thanks to our presence on the Luxembourg pavilion. So we wanted to repeat the experience this year and hope to have the same success. Moreover, we can say that this was the case, with 50 meetings in three days, not to mention all the unplanned discussions. It was very intense,” says Régis Heyberger, CEO of MPG. “The advantage of being present on the Luxembourg stand is that it is small, but with the ability to be able to welcome customers as if we were sizeable..

Another CIL member, Russian Ocsial, presented its solutions based on carbon nanotubes, which offer unique antistatic properties. Located in Siberia, China and the United States, the company plans to expand its infrastructure in Luxembourg with the construction of a new production and research site planned for 2020 in Differdange, with the creation of some 200 jobs. “Our presence at the YCW is very important to become known. We come not only to sell our product, but also to sell technological innovation,” says Nicolas Flandrin-Jones, Marketing & Communication EMEA for Ocsial. “We also come to feel the pulse of market trends”, essential to remain competitive according to him.

“Assemble, assist and expand”

The need for composite materials is greatly increasing, now covering almost all sectors such as the automotive, nautical, renewable energy, land transport, mechanics, construction, chemistry and medical sectors. Trends emerged at the show, particularly in 3D printing of composites. The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) took advantage of its presence at JEC on the CIL stand to sign a partnership agreement with Anisoprint, a Russian start-up recently established in Luxembourg that has developed its own patented 3D continuous fibre printing technology.

Another observation is that the quest for intelligent and responsible composites has also been officially launched. The theme of thermoplastics was highlighted at the show, with the desire to use more ecological materials and develop ever lighter, more efficient, durable and recyclable fibres. “Thermoplastic materials could gradually replace some thermosetting materials,” says Caroline Muller, manager of the Luxembourg Materials & Manufacturing Cluster. In any case, it is an objective defined by an increasing number of actors seeking to achieve a better “performance-cycle-cost-sustainability” ratio.

Another notable trend was the increased presence of raw material suppliers at the exhibition. “It may be one of the only major links in the value chain that we lack in Luxembourg, but we have nothing to be ashamed of, because the country is very well placed in new technologies and high-tech composites,” says Caroline Muller. The Luxembourg Ambassador to France, Martine Schommer, visiting the Luxembourg pavilion, also confirmed the dynamism of the national ecosystem and its significant attraction for foreign investors and companies, like Turkey which, despite an almost complete value chain, is seeking to develop new partnerships. “We were approached during the show by the Turkish Composites Manufacturers Association for the development of collaborative projects,” confirms Caroline Muller. Its large market of €1.5 billion makes Turkey a very good partner for CIL members and more broadly for Luxembourg. We will analyse the 120 Turkish companies in the association and why not jointly organise a matchmaking event. There are many interesting synergies to be explored. The prospects in terms of composites are endless and playing alone at the national level is no longer sufficient. This is where the strength of CIL lies: to assemble, accompany and expand.