Used in a wide gamut of industries, engineering plastics will continue to witness strong demand globally, as per Global Industry Analysts, Inc. One of the main factors affecting the engineering plastics market is the level and the rate of replacement of traditional materials. In the developed countries, there have been significant conversions from metal to engineering plastics in almost all key industries. In the developing countries, on the other hand, per capita consumption continues to remain low offering robust untapped potential for growth. Over the years, a number of different grades and types of engineering plastics have been developed by subjecting polymers to a variety of chemical reactions in different combinations. Nylon, Acetal, Teflon and Polycarbonate mainly comprised the engineering plastic family in the beginning. However, the group has been consistently growing since then to encompass a continuously increasing list of plastics that fall under this category.
Environmental concerns are playing an important role in influencing the development of engineering plastics. In this regard, natural oils including soybean, corn, and linseed are being increasingly used as monomers. Water-soluble polymers have also grown in popularity.
The medical end-use industry is expected to witness the strongest growth. Surgical medical instrumentation, such as scalpels and syringes, diagnostic equipment casings, and research application tools represent some of the high growth areas projected for engineering plastics. Thermoplastic polyester would continue to be the leading engineering resin with thermoplastic elastomers and polycarbonate showing premium growth owing to increased requirements for impact resistance, clarity, and tactility among other features. Specialty thermoplastics, such as polysulfone and polyetheretherketone (PEEK) would also exhibit a strong growth in electromedical and x-ray equipment, and in medical as well as surgical instruments.
Global demand for polycarbonate is expected to continue to witness sturdy gains, given the robust turnaround in demand in electrical, electronic, automotive industries. Growth will also be supported by expansion of application areas beyond the conventional electronic industry and into newer industries, such as, automotive, construction, and medical products, among others. Automotive engineering, especially, is expected to significantly drive demand for polycarbonate resins, which are increasingly being utilized in the manufacture of rear side windows, panorama roofs, interior cabin panels, radiator grills, engine parts, throttle bodies and in air-intake manifolds, among others. Over the next decade, Nylon is forecast to emerge into a major material in numerous under the hood applications.
Asia-Pacific represents the largest market worldwide. The region also represents the fastest growing market worldwide with a projected CAGR of 8.8%, over the analysis period. China and India, the most populated countries of the world, are witnessing strong demand for engineering plastics. Both countries are expected to outpace the global compounded annual growth rate. Growth in these countries will be driven by healthy GDP gains, economic growth and rapid pace of industrialization, expansion in manufacturing output and continuous investments in infrastructure development. India, with its low per capita consumption, offers more growth prospects than China. Currently however, Chinese manufacturers with significant trade exposures in Europe are feeling the heat of the European debt crisis. Comparatively weaker demand in the debt burdened euro zone region coupled with strengthening of the Chinese Yuan as a result of under pressure political decisions to allow the traditionally perceived as "misaligned" currency to be more exposed to market forces, impacted trade of domestic Chinese manufacturers. Stronger Yuan implies reduced cost competitive advantages in the international market. Major players in the global marketplace include BASF SE, Bayer AG, Chi Mei Corporation, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Eastman Chemical Company, Evonik Degussa GmbH, LG Chem, Polyplastics Co., Royal DSM NV, SABIC, Ticona Engineering Polymers, Teijin Limited, Toray Industries Inc., and Wintech Polymer Ltd.
Global chemical major BASF expects Asia’s consumption of compounded engineering plastics to increase by 32% in four years’ time to 1.45 mln tons, backed by the region’s growing population, improving infrastructure and stable economic growth, as per ICIS. The huge emerging markets of China and India will likely show the highest increase in demand for polyamide (nylon) and polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) products, at 10-11% from 2010 to 2015, Andy Postlethwaite, senior vice president for engineering plastics for Asia-Pacific at BASF, told ICIS. By 2015, consumption is estimated to hit 803,000 tpa in China; 306,000 tpa in Japan; 138,000 tpa in South Korea; 103,000 tpa in India, and; 102,000 tpa for the rest of Asia. In the next 10 years, PA (polyamide) and PBT compounds (consumption in Asia) is expected to grow on an average (of) about 8% pa. In 2011, the Asian consumption of polyamide and PBT compounds breached the 1m-tonne mark, with China accounting for 562,000 tons or half of the total. The automotive sector is expected to remain the key demand driver for engineering plastics, citing India’s case, wherein the sector accounted for half of the total consumption of these types of material. As per ogjresearch.stores, demand for polycarbonate is highest in Asia. China is driving majority of the demand for polycarbonate in the world. The Asian demand by volume for polycarbonate in 2009 was nearly 60% of the global polycarbonate demand. The electrical and electronics industry is the principle polycarbonate consuming sector globally. Optical media is the second largest consumer of polycarbonate but the demand is decreasing. The demand in the future will come from the electronics and automotive industries. The demand in the construction industry for polycarbonate is also showing growth prospects.