Global demand for thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) is forecast to grow by 6.4% pa through 2011 to 3.5 mln tons as per a report by reportlinker.com. Value gains will expand an even stronger 7.8% annually to US$13.7 bln over the same period, due to the increasing number of applications that require costlier types of TPEs and sustained high energy prices that will raise TPE production costs. China will expand its share of the world market from 31% in 2006 to 35% in 2011, although the US will remain the world's largest manufacturer of some products such as olefinic based TPEs.
Through 2011, China's TPE market (the world's largest market in metric tons) will expand and diversify rapidly based on the country's key positions in the production of many of the key products made with TPE parts and components. Currently, a large portion of TPE demand in China is devoted to the country's massive footwear industry. Nevertheless, with the notable exception of China, global TPE sales will remain concentrated in the developed markets of the US, Western Europe and Japan, particularly for higher performance materials such as copolyester elastomers (COPEs) and thermoplastic vulcanizates (TPVs). Growth prospects through 2011, however, will be strongest in developing countries. Most developing markets have initially focused on low-cost styrenic block copolymers (SBCs) due to their existing positions in styrene-butadiene and polybutadiene rubber (which also helps domestic production of SBCs), but some such as China are also significantly diversifying into compounded thermoplastic polyolefins (TPOs) and thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs)..
Motor vehicles will remain the largest market for TPEs at the global level, with sustained solid gains attributable to the development of new products for exterior (body seals) and interior (door panel and instrument skins) applications at the expense of ethylene-propylene diene monomer (EPDM) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Though all major generic types of TPEs are gaining new applications in motor vehicles, TPOs will remain the largest volume segment. The smaller consumer and sporting goods sector will remain the fastest growing market for TPEs through 2011. Gains will primarily be attributable to expanding uses in sporting goods and personal care goods, where TPEs will benefit from the continued displacement of traditional materials such as thermoset rubber and thermoplastics (particularly PVC). In these applications, TPEs are primarily valued for their durability, easy processing, colorability and weather resistance.