Polycarbonates are a type of thermoplastic polymer that offer a combination of favorable properties such as transparency, high impact resistance, and easy molding. As a result of the latter in particular, they can be shaped into diverse shapes and thus used in several applications. Due to their high impact resistance, the global polycarbonate market has found rising demand from the booming consumer electronics and automotive industries. Polycarbonate Resins are thermoplastic generally derived from phosgene and bisphenol A. Polycarbonate’s properties include ductility, high strength and amorphous.
The global polycarbonate market will witness significant growth from 2017 to 2021 owing to increasing applications in the electrical and electronics, automotive, and many other end-user industries. Technavio analysts forecast the global polycarbonate plastic market to grow at a CAGR of almost 7% during the forecast period. The global polycarbonate plastic market will witness significant growth during the forecast period owing to increasing applications of polycarbonate plastic in the electrical and electronics, automotive, and many other end-user industries. Polycarbonate plastic is preferred over traditional materials such as glass, wood, and metal because of their superior chemical and abrasion resistance characteristics. In recent years, rapid growth is seen in the automotive industry due to the increase in the disposable income worldwide, especially in APAC. The demand is mainly driven by the rising production of passenger cars. Increasing industrialization in APAC is also contributing to the growth of the polycarbonate plastic market. Technavio chemicals and materials research analysts highlight the following three factors that are contributing to the growth of the global polycarbonate plastic market:
- Increasing popularity of thermoplastics against conventional materials
- High demand from emerging economies
- Strong demand from automotive industry
Increasing popularity of thermoplastics against conventional materials: Thermoplastics such as polycarbonate plastic are increasingly becoming a substitute for conventional materials such as metals, glass, and wood. The easy availability and cost benefit are increasingly making plastics an appropriate alternative to traditional materials, including glass, wood, stainless steel, and ceramics. Ajay Adhikari, a lead plastic, polymers, and elastomers research analyst at Technavio, says, “Materials made of polycarbonate plastic are cheap and are tear, abrasion, and chemical resistant. Metal foils are substituted with static dissipating polycarbonate plastic. It is used in packaging sensitive electrical components. Ceramics are substituted with polycarbonate plastics in tableware, both disposable and non-disposable.”
High demand from emerging economies: Polycarbonate plastic has a huge market in APAC, due to high durability, lightweight, and innovative potential of the material. It is gaining importance in developing regions as there are ample of opportunities for polycarbonate plastic-based products in various end-use industries such as food and beverage, construction, and automotive. All these industries require polymer plastic for the production of various industry-specific products. “Polycarbonate plastic is gaining high importance in emerging regions of APAC, the Middle East, Africa, and South America, with countries such as the US, Germany, China, South Korea, Japan, and other Asian economies leading the production of polycarbonate plastic. These regions held more than half of the global capacity of polycarbonate plastic in 2016,” adds Ajay.
Strong demand from automotive industry: An increase in demand from the automotive industry is a major driver contributing to the growth of the global polycarbonate plastic market. Polycarbonate plastic is progressively substituting standard glass and other conventional elastomers in automotive applications. The use of polycarbonate plastic in the automotive industry includes lighting applications (for cars, bus, truck, and motorcycles) such as headlamp bezels, headlamp lenses, and light housings. The demand for polycarbonate plastic is increasing due to the high demand for lighting applications, which has high-temperature resistance along with impact resistance and excellent light transparency. Also, polycarbonate plastic is increasingly being used in several automotive applications such as car interior parts and thermoformed sheets for cladding of railway cabins.
Global Polycarbonate market to be worth US$19.6 bln by 2020 due to rising demand in automotive, consumer electronics design, as per Transparency Market Research, estimated to exhibit a steady 6.2% CAGR from 2014 to 2020 to rise from a valuation of US$12.8 bln in 2013.
In the automotive industry, polycarbonates are used in various applications to provide high impact resistance and durability at lower weights than conventional materials. Since polycarbonates can bend significantly without breaking, their usage is rising in automotive design to make the car safer. The rapid rise of the global automotive industry in recent years, aided by the rising levels of disposable income worldwide and increasing industrialization in several developing countries, has thus propelled the global polycarbonates market significantly. The demand for polycarbonates is mainly driven by the rising production of light passenger cars, which are being bought in increasing numbers in developing countries such as India, China, and South Korea. According to the report, the automotive industry is expected to be the fastest growing consumer of polycarbonates in the forecast period. The rising Asia Pacific automotive industry is mainly responsible for this. Like the automotive industry, the demand for polycarbonates for usage in consumer electronics is also mainly arising in Asia Pacific. The consumer electronics market in Asia Pacific is also currently rising at an immense growth rate, driven by the same wave of industrialization that has boosted the automotive industry in the region. Due to their high impact resistance and light weight, polycarbonates have emerged as the perfect materials for mobile phones, propelling the global polycarbonate market. Consumer electronics are expected to remain the largest application segment of the global polycarbonate market and improve upon the 26% market share the segment managed to garner in 2013. Apart from the automotive and consumer electronics industries, polycarbonates are also in demand from the packaging and construction industries. These are also expected to remain key application segments of the global polycarbonate market in the forecast period. Due to the steady performance of the two major applications of polycarbonates in the region, the Asia Pacific market for polycarbonates emerged as the largest regional segment of the global market, accounting for a dominant 61% of the market. The APAC polycarbonates market is expected to remain the leading regional segment, followed by Europe and Rest of the World.
As per Grand View Research, the global polycarbonate market size was US$15.24 bln in 2015. The resin finds applications across a wide range of industries that include automotive & transportation, construction, packaging, consumer goods, and medical devices. In the recent past, the industry has experienced tremendous demand from automotive manufacturers as a result of regulations favoring vehicular weight reduction and plastics usage.
Polycarbonate resins are highly blended with other polymers such as ABS and polyester to be used in the fabrication of automotive components. Greater processability of PC resins by means of injection molding, foam molding, extrusion, and vacuum forming has enabled end-users to explore further options for the resin’s usage. Niche application areas such as safety equipment and industrial machinery are likely to gain demand in future. Regulations play a vital role in shaping industry dynamics and application trends. Regulations aimed at plastic waste and their disposal have led to greater emphasis on recycling practices. In 2012, the U.S., one of the largest consumers of plastic materials, generated approximately 14 mln tons of plastic waste in the form of containers and packages. Post amendments in existing acts and formulation of new policies, recycling rates in the U.S. grew by around 4.5% since 2012. This trend is expected to play a significant role in enhancing polycarbonate’s role as substitute plastic since the resin is completely recyclable in nature.
U.S. Polycarbonate Market Revenue By Application, 2014 - 2024 (USD Million)
Polycarbonate resins blended with other polymers such as PBT and ABS to improve the final compound’s impact resistance and high temperature performance. These compounds are further processed to be used in the fabrication of lighting systems, headlamp lenses, exterior parts, and interior components by automotive OEMs.
Over the recent past, Asian markets that include China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Korea have established themselves as regional manufacturing hubs for passenger cars and two wheelers. High demand for premium passenger vehicles in the region has attracted investments from American and European companies that include Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen. Passenger car production volumes in Asia Pacific grew at a CAGR of 4.9% from 2010 to 2014. Signifying a potential opportunity for PC resin manufacturers to establish themselves as suppliers to local OEM centers. Furthermore, investments in public infrastructure, particularly in metro-rail projects and greenfield airports, will give rise to the demand for PC resins in construction as well as mass transit systems. China is the largest consumer of polycarbonate resins in Asia Pacific with volume estimated at nearly 1.50 million tons in 2015. Despite slowing growth which is expected to decrease from the current rate of 6.5% to 6.2% by 2017, China promises growth opportunities for the industry in the construction and automotive. Fiscal reforms in the country have started to display results in the form of positive producer price index. A non-aggressive monetary stance by the country’s central bank is likely to ease up liquidity, thereby favoring investments in new housing starts. In China, polycarbonate market value in construction is expected to reach US$1.90 bln by 2024. Diversifying operational presence is crucial for companies looking forward to increasing their sales. Rising transportation and labor costs are encouraging polycarbonate resin manufacturers & processors to relocate towards locations closer to end-users. In order to further improve material supply, end-users are getting into commercial agreements with suppliers. In turn, the factor would aid manufacturers in securing a stable consumer base.
As per Zion Research, the global demand for polycarbonate was valued at US$13.50 bln in 2014, and is expected to reach US$18.50 bln in 2020, growing at a CAGR of 5.8% between 2015 and 2020. Polycarbonate market is primarily driven by growing demand from automotive industry across the globe. Increasing demand from food and beverage packaging and the medical packaging application is expected to boost the growth of the polycarbonate market during the years to come. However, environmental issue related with this polymer is major challenges that may hinder the growth of the market.
The polycarbonate market has been segmented based on application into automotive, electronics, construction, optical media, packaging industry and others. In 2014, the electronics was the dominant application segment in terms of total revenue generated and it accounted around 25% shares of the market. Heavy consumption of polycarbonate in the automotive industry is expected to be a major factor driving the market growth worldwide. Polycarbonate helps to reduce the weight of vehicle which increases the fuel efficiency and reduces impact on environment. Asia-Pacific was the largest regional market for polycarbonate and accounted for over 65% share of the total demand in 2014. Growth in use of polycarbonate in various applications is also expected to boost demand for polycarbonate in the years to come. Europe was the second largest market for polycarbonate in 2014. This was majorly due to high demand for light weight and high strength material for the automotive and electronics application.
Some of the key player in the polycarbonate market includes Bayer Material Science AG, Mitsubishi Engineering-Plastics Corporation, Trinseo (Styron), and Teijin Limited, SABIC Innovative Plastics, Chi Mei Corporation, Centroplast Engineering Plastics GmbH, Royal DSM, Aashi Kasei Chemical Corporation, Idemistu Kosan Co., Ltd and amongst others.