Growing awareness, increased investments present endless opportunities in performance plastics sector

Frost & Sullivan presented an Executive MindXchange titled ‘Performance Plastic Summit 2010 – Trends and Advances in Performance Plastics’ at The Westin Mumbai Garden City, Mumbai. This MindXchange successfully created a platform for end users to gain an understanding on key issues, new developments and processing requirements in the Specialty Plastic Industry. The MindXchange revealed that traditional materials such as metal and thermosets are being replaced by performance plastics because of their lighter weight, design flexibility, ease of processing and the overall reduced lifetime cost. In addition, the most valued properties of performance plastics are their high heat resistance, chemical resistance, dimensional stability, strength and light weight. The automotive sector is the largest consumer of performance plastics followed by electrical and electronics. These properties make performance plastics more fuel efficient than metal to use in vehicles. According to Frost & Sullivan, the trend of replacing metal or other traditional materials will drive the demand growth of performance plastics by 25% by 2015. The consumption of plastics in India is currently more in the commodity rather than the specialty segment. The demand for specialty plastics is low due to the price sensitivity of Indian customers. This is likely to change due to increasing awareness about using specialty plastics as well as increasing affordability. Frost & Sullivan feels that introduction of better products is creating more opportunities for performance plastics in various new segments. More electrical and electronic systems are being incorporated into new generation products. In the automotive segment, newer technologies like automatic window systems, electronic seat adjustments, climate control, etc., make extensive use of performance plastics. So high growth in the end-user market proves to be one of the factors for growth of performance plastics. In India, the demand for plastics in the healthcare segment has been negligible since most finished products are imported. Considering the lower demand base for specialty plastics in India, growth of medical devices manufacturing is likely to give the required boost for specialty plastics demand. “The global market for specialty plastics has shown considerable growth with continuous product and application development. The Indian market for performance plastics is still a very small percentage of the global market. Lack of product awareness, availability issues, high price, smaller base of end-user industries such as Healthcare, are some of the factors that have restricted the growth of this market. This trend is likely to change with changing consumer needs and an increase in the number of end-user industries, coupled with the functional and regulatory compliance norms that these plastics are required to meet”, says Mamta Wadhwa, Sr. Director, Chemicals, Materials and Food Practice, Frost & Sullivan, South Asia, Middle East and North Africa. Historically, only metals were commercially available materials for use in demanding medical applications. Contemporary technology offers clear advantages over conventional mode of production. Today, plastic is replacing metals in many medical devices. Despite increasing acceptance of plastics by the industry, there is still enormous scope for replacement of metals by performance plastics. These plastics can provide various functional improvements at lower costs while meeting biocompatibility requirements. Recent research in performance plastics shows that there are newer materials, which can withstand rough handling, multiple cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization cycles without significant loss of properties. This also opens up new opportunities in single-use as well as multi-use and reusable devices. In the electronics industry, the need for precision and high insulation material is very important. Recent implementation of regulations mandating elimination of certain hazardous materials from electronic devices and the need to replace metal with a light weight material are expected to drive the demand for performance plastics. The MindXchange witnessed leaders from the Materials industry addressing high growth end-user markets like automotive, electronics, and medical devices. Eminent speakers at the summit included Dominic Britto, Principal Consultant, Materials Practice, Frost & Sullivan; Dr. Sanjay Charati, Director-Technical, Solvay Specialties India Pvt. Ltd.; Vikas Bawa, Deputy General Manager, COE Trim Engineering, Mahindra & Mahindra, Automotive Division; M S Saravanan, Market Development Manager, BASF; Dr. Simon Ting, Market Development Manager, ARKEMA Shanghai Technical Polymers Development Branch; Prashant B Vairagi, Asst. General Manager, Plastics Technology Switchgear Design and Development Centre, Electrical and Electronics Business Group, Larsen & Toubro Ltd.; Dr. Milind Mhalgi, Sr. Manager, Materials and Product Valuation, TACO Group; S Krithikumar, Manager Sales,BASF and `D Madhusudhana Rao, Assistant Manager - New Product Development, Amara Raja Electronics Ltd. BASF-India was the Silver Partner for the MindXchange.
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