Cast polymer products are man-made, chemically–bonded, mineral-filled, polymeric materials which are molded and hardened to a solid material in a variety of shapes that meet diverse design needs, as per International Cast Polymer Alliance (ICPA). Cast polymer products resist mildew and stains and are easily cleaned with non-abrasive cleaning agents. The one-piece, seamless construction of cast polymer is easy to maintain and resistant to breakage. Some of these applications include: counter tops, lavatories, shower receptors, bathtubs, fireplace surrounds, window sills, wall panels, floor tiles, molding accents. Solid Surface products are manufactured with high performance resin systems such as acrylic and unsaturated polyester. They have very high filler content and do not have gel coats. These materials are used primarily in counter top and wall panel applications. A design benefit of solid surface materials is their ability to be machined to like wood, though special equipment and fabrication procedures are required. They can be precisely cut and bonded to fit nearly any surface shape. Solid surface materials can also be routed for decorative edging which can be applied with specially formulated adhesives. Since the color goes clear through the product, scratches, chips and stains can be easily sanded out. Solid surface materials are sold under a number of brand names including Avonite, Dupont Corian, Fountainhead, Gilbraltar, Nevamar, Surell and Transolid.
As per Freedonia global demand for cast polymers is projected to increase 8.7% pa to 256 mln sq mts in 2014. Approximately 60% of the gains will be attributable to China, a country with a quickly developing domestic cast polymer industry and a considerable construction sector. China, along with other developing countries such as Brazil and India, has been building large volumes of modern housing units and nonresidential facilities each year to accommodate the needs of its growing population and ongoing economic development. Global demand growth will also be aided by the recovery of new housing construction in the US and much of Western Europe, as well as Australia, Japan and South Korea, from low 2009 bases. Compared to many other types of surfacing materials, cast polymers benefit from performance advantages as well as design flexibility. In 2009, solid surface accounted for 65% of global cast polymer sales. Approximately three-quarters of solid surface materials were sold in the Asia/Pacific region, where they are low-cost options because of limited color offerings and a highly competitive local production base. Engineered stone is expected to achieve the most rapid gains in demand through 2014, albeit from a much smaller base. Although it was historically used primarily in the most developed countries, its market penetration is increasing in nonresidential installations in developing areas. Less expensive, but less durable gel-coated composites are projected to see more modest gains through 2014. Advances in the dominant Asia/Pacific market are primarily driven by China, which accounted for 71% of the region's cast polymer sales in 2009. Gains will stem from residential trends such as the country's ongoing urbanization and the development of a more modern housing stock, as well as the continued expansion and improvement of nonresidential building stock. The rapid development and continued rise of a local industry will further increase market competition and cut prices. India is expected to see somewhat stronger gains in the forecast period as it also develops additional and more modern housing, schools, hospitals, transportation terminals and other facilities to accommodate its growing population and continued development. However, gains, particularly in many of the least developed countries of the world, will be limited by the typically small size of the homes, and the limited ability to finance the use of higher-value building materials like cast polymers.
As per Reportlinker, demand for cast polymers in the US is forecast to increase 5.3% pa to 248 mln sq. ft. in 2016. Gains will be driven by a sharp rebound in housing completions from the depressed levels of 2011; however, even by 2021 the number of new homes built will not reach the peak levels achieved in 2006 before the downturn. The residential improvement and repair segment will continue to account for the majority of cast polymer demand, thus an upswing in US residential remodeling activity. Demand for cast polymers will be further aided by a recovery in the nonresidential construction spending market. Greater market penetration by cast polymers in place of more traditional surfacing materials, such as laminates, will further benefit demand. In most applications, cast polymers offer low maintenance requirements as well as resistance to stains, moisture, impact and other damage caused by wear and tear. Engineered stone is expected to post the most rapid advances in cast polymer demand through 2016. Residential consumers will continue to be attracted to the material because of its performance advantages and because it is designed to resemble high-end natural stone but with more color options and greater durability. Engineered stone demand in the nonresidential building construction market will be supported by specifiers seeking materials that are impervious to biological contaminants and requiring minimal maintenance. Solid surface materials will continue to account for the largest share of cast polymer demand, with 41% of the total market in 2016. While solid surface benefits from cost advantages, increased competition from natural stone and engineered stone will limit gains. Many consumers perceive stone as superior in performance and aesthetics over solid surface. Demand for gel-coated composites (e.g., cultured marble) will be supported by their rising use in nonresidential building construction applications. Gains will also be driven by trends in residential bathrooms (a greater number and more elaborate designs), an area where gel-coated composites are most frequently applied. The countertop market will account for 86% of cast polymer demand in 2016. The new housing segment will provide the most rapid gains, as housing completions rebound and builders looking to make homes more marketable increasingly choose cast polymer countertops instead of laminates or tile. Nevertheless, the residential improvement and repair segment will continue to account for the majority of cast polymer countertop demand. Designs that call for larger kitchens and multiple bathrooms will also promote demand. In nonresidential countertop applications, solid surface materials will make gains in institutional settings, such as hospitals and schools, because these materials offer resistance to biological contamination.