A new report from Applied Market Information provides details on the complex and varied plastic tube and hose extrusion sector in Europe with information on more than 670 companies in a sector of the plastics processing industry estimated to account for approximately 700,000 tpa of polymer material.
Hoses and tubes are designed to help convey a gas or liquid without it mixing with the external environment. Most plastic hoses are designed to be flexible to a greater of lesser extent, while tubing can be either flexible or rigid, depending on the applications. Hoses and tubes may be made via simple extrusion or co-extrusion or by the incorporation of reinforcement. Reinforcement may take the form of a spirally wound filament (metal or textile) or by co-extrusion or lamination onto a textile or metal substrate. Thermoplastic hose and tube extrusion covers a diverse range of products ranging from standard garden hoses through to speciality medical and automotive tubing systems. AMI’s guide breaks down the key end use sectors for each supplier of hose and tube into five main groups: automotive, medical, horticulture/agriculture, food & drink and electrical conduit. Automotive is the most widely served end use sector with 27% of hose and tube manufacturers listed in the guide engaged in the supply of fuel tank and other automotive tubing applications. Medical and horticulture/agricultural with 25% and 22%, respectively, are the next largest markets. The food & drink sector is supplied by 15% of hose and tube manufactures surveyed, with 11% supplying electrical conduit. Food & drink tubing includes drinking straws, tubes for food packaging and drink dispensing tubes. Blow moulded cream and toothpaste tubes are not included in the definition. The electrical conduit sector includes tube that could be rigid or flexible and can be corrugated to protect other pipes or cables- mainly used inside walls, but does not include underground cable ducting pipes and cable trunking profiles. Other key markets identified include tubes and hoses for domestic electrical appliances, lighting, chemical industry, building industry, verandas, industrial ducting, mining, aquariums, bird cages and curtain rails. PVC, because of its comparatively low cost, good performance and processing properties, dominates the market for hose and tube extrusion accounting for 55% of processed polymer volumes in 2009. AMI’s research found that over 90% of hose and tube manufacturers are using either rigid or flexible PVC. PVC has a wide range of applications. Most of the hoses produced for use in horticulture and agriculture are made from PVC. Other applications include flexible and rigid indoor cable protection conduit, tubing for washing machines and other domestic appliances, and medical tubing for delivery of blood and other fluids. Polyolefins is the other main material used in this sector accounting for around 40% of polymer volumes used. Other materials used include polyamide and thermoplastic elastomers. Like most sectors of the plastics processing industry tube and hose extruders have seen their business shrink during the recession. European plastic hose and tube extrusion demand was severely affected by the downturn in demand and production for key end use sectors during the recession, particularly, automotive, building and construction, industrial machinery and domestic electrical appliances. The supply side of the sector was also unfavourable, with energy, transport, labour and raw material cost increases threatening European flexible tube producers. A modest upturn in demand is expected to occur during 2010 as the European economy moves out of recession. Plastic hose and tube demand growth is forecast to revert back to its trend growth rate of between 2-3% pa over the next five years.