IMPRESSIONS from a Cross-section

Sector Pulse
Mr. Drew Walker
Mr. Drew Walker
Chief Executive Officer
AGY Holding

Company Details

Business Area:
The company services aerospace, specialty electronics, alternative energy, and industrial products markets.
US$175 million
Export Capabilities:
AGY produces 25 thousand tonnes of glass fiber yarn per year.
AGY sells to all the major OEMs like Boeing, Airbus, Cisco, Apple, Samsung, and many other industrial companies.


How big is the market of glass fibre yarns in the global textile industry? How do you see the sector's prospects over the next five years?

Glass fibre yarns are collection of small filaments bundled together in various sizes and ranges from 12 microns down to 4 microns. The 4 micron yarns are the finest yarns measuring about one-thirds of the width of a human hair.

The biggest market for glass fibre yarns is fabric for printed circuit boards (PCB) which is used in everything from automotive and consumer goods to hand held mobile devices like the Apple iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy 3. The PCB cloth is used in the construction of the printed circuit board by first producing the yarn, then weaving this into cloth and finally sandwiching the cloth together between copper and an epoxy resin in alternate layers. The more layers of the PCB cloth, the more sophisticated the device.

The size of the glass fibre yarn market is more than 200,000 tonnes and most of this production is made in China and Taiwan. The major buyers of these yarns are the US, the European community (mainly the UK, France and Germany) and Japan.

The high performance glass fibre applications are primarily used in the aerospace market for aircraft interiors and structural as well as semi-structural parts. The key benefits of these fibres are its lightweight and strength that the high strength glass delivers to the application. An example would be in companies like Boeing and Airbus who continually strive to make more efficient planes that use less fuel, making the weight of the airplane a critical factor.

The second market for high street glass would be in defense for structural armor. The materials were widely used in improvised explosive devices (IED) roadside bomb protection systems on the Humvee and the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.  The latest development of high performance glass fibre yarns has gone from pure ballistic protection into enabling the whole structure of the vehicle to be made with a composite. It enables weight saving in the vehicles, as high strength glass is about one-third of the weight of traditional steel.

The third application area of glass fibre yarns is that of automotive. It allows engine manufacturers to develop efficient engines with timing belt and muffler systems that can be found on the latest fuel efficient engines.

I think the future is bright for glass fibre yarns in next five years. Due to the broader acceptance of composite materials in products that we use in our everyday lifestyle, we will see composite materials used more extensively in aerospace. The Boeing 787 uses 50 percent composites in its construction. We also see composites being used in the electronics area where the need for sleek design requires new materials as consumers are demanding thinner, more powerful devices. And finally, we see the use of composites in automotive with the introduction of electric and hybrid vehicles that are using body panels made from composites. In summary, there is an overwhelming drive and demand from consumers for products that are lighter, faster and stronger, and this will drive the demand for glass fibre yarns.  

Published on: 01/08/2013

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of

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