Concrete fibers, also known as reinforced concrete or fiber-reinforced concrete, are gaining enormous traction throughout the world. This can be majorly attributed to the growing need for and shifting consumer preference towards high-quality infrastructure. Different types of fibers for reinforced concrete are steel fibers, nylon fibers, natural fibers, and polyester fibers, among others.
Reinforced concrete offers a range of benefits such as additional durability and strength along with facilitating enhanced aesthetic appeal. In addition, the materials help to considerably reduce cracking and minimize the risks and effects of shrinking. It is estimated that global concrete fiber market size will be worth USD 2.8 billion by 2025.
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Population growth, rapid urbanization and industrialization
A growing population and the subsequent increase in urbanization particularly in emerging economies across Asia Pacific and the Middle East have accelerated building & construction activities across these regions. Statistically, more than half the world population currently resides in urban areas.
The UN forecasts that 68% of the global population will be living in cities by 2050. Moreover, rapid industrialization has led to increased number of residential and commercial infrastructure development projects across developing regions.
The APAC region makes up around 60% of the world population, which equals nearly 4.3 billion people. APAC countries including China, India and Japan are investing substantially in infrastructure development projects to keep with the escalating rate of urbanization and industrialization.
On the other hand, developed regions such as Europe and the U.S. are focusing on renovation and refurbishment of existing residential as well as commercial buildings and related infrastructure. Robust demand from composite metal decks and pavement applications will offer promising opportunities to concrete fiber manufacturers in the near future.
Experts suggest that the building & construction sector consumes about 36% of the global final energy. Moreover, the sector accounts for around 40% of overall direct and indirect carbon emissions. This power requirement is anticipated to surge over the next few years on account of greater access to energy particularly in developing regions.
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Ongoing research and development for enhanced materials
In November this year, a researcher at the University of Tehran had managed to design a next-gen ultra-high-performance fiber-reinforced concrete (UHPFRC). The aim was to design a material which exhibits mechanical properties commonly similar to most fiber-reinforced concretes but without incorporating steel fibers.
The researcher used a very stiff type of polyethylene to build the UHPFRC instead of steel fibers. It was observed that the polyethylene-based fiber adhered very effectively with the cement and offered excellent structural support to the concrete. Additionally, this method minimizes the amount of cement required by as much as 50%, and limestone which is readily available can be used to make up the difference.
Apparently, the UHPFRC offers two additional benefits compared to conventional concrete fibers. The end-product is about 10% lighter and the material minimizes the overall environmental impact by up to 70%. This makes the UHPFRC a more ecofriendly and cost-effective alternative to commonly used reinforced concretes.
Fluctuating raw material costs are anticipated to restrict the industry growth up to certain extent. Higher operational costs and complexities associated with waste management of synthetic fibers may also decelerate the product demand. However, manufacturers are constantly investing in R&D to come up with similar type of environmentally-friendly product innovations which will boost the business outlook in the coming years.
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