US demand for specialty films is expected to grow 5.1% pa to US$8 bln in 2017. Expansion of the market will be fostered by the increasing need for high-performance plastic films that offer such advantages as barrier properties, mechanical strength, and chemical resistance in packaging and construction applications, as per Reportlinker. Additionally, the penetration of specialty films into high-growth market areas such as photovoltaic modules, biodegradable products, and pharmaceuticals will bolster demand. The expansion of modified atmosphere packaging and case-ready packaging will fuel further gains, as will improved processing methods in film coating and metallization. However, demand growth will be inhibited by market maturity or weak demand for end-use products in a number of specialty film applications, such as conductive and insulative films in consumer electronics, microporous films for personal care products, and interlayer films for automotive windows.
Barrier films will remain the largest segment of the specialty film industry, accounting for nearly two-thirds of total demand in 2017. Growth will be driven by the continued expansion of packaging requiring high barrier properties for an array of products. However, the most rapid growth in specialty films will occur in biodegradable and water soluble films, which will see robust gains from a small base. Demand for biodegradable films, which are used to produce compostable packaging and plastic bags, will benefit from environmental concerns and increased commercialization of bio-based polymers. Water soluble film demand will be driven by innovations in medicinal and health products in dissolvable thin film form and increased use of dissolvable laundry bags in hospitals and other health care facilities. Light control films will exhibit above average growth in demand as a result of the favorable outlook for the building construction and photovoltaic markets. In both new construction and home improvements, the growing demand for more energy efficient buildings will fuel demand for window films designed to block infrared radiation while allowing in visible light. Growth in the photovoltaic market will also benefit light control films used as front sheets. These films allow for light transmission necessary for solar energy generation, while featuring superior mechanical strength, weatherability, and flexibility. Conductive and insulative films will also be fueled by the growing solar energy market, where they are used for backsheets and encapsulants in photovoltaic modules.
The packaging market will be the leading outlet for specialty films, accounting for more than two-thirds of demand in 2017. Gains will be driven by packaging for medical products and pharmaceuticals needed to care for an aging population as well as by antistatic packaging used to protect electronic components. However, the fastest growth will be in construction applications, as vapor barrier, security, and light control films benefit from the increase in building construction activity. The electronics market will also register above average growth, largely driven by films used in the production of photovoltaic modules.