Thermoforming is a process where a sheet of plastic is heated to make it flexible then fabricated and molded in required shape to make it a usable product. Different methods used for processing thermoformed plastics are thin gauge thermoforming, thick gauge thermoforming, plug assist forming, and vacuum snapback.
Globally, increasing demand for medical and pharmaceutical products has been a major factor driving market growth. Also, growing healthcare industry has led to rising demand for thermoformed plastics. Rising demand in various application sectors including food packaging, automotive, healthcare & medical, electrical & electronics, construction, and consumer goods & appliances owing to cost efficient nature is projected to propel the market over the coming years. Rapid industrialization, infrastructural, and medical activities is anticipated to augment the market growth from 2017 to 2025. As per Grand View Research, Inc, the global thermoformed plastics market is expected to reach US$16.28 bln by 2025. Thermoformed plastics in medical industry are used for the manufacture of diagnostic systems, accessories, and medical plants. Thermoforming includes a manufacturing process of converting a two dimensional thermo polymer into a three dimensional to be used as prefilled syringes, pharmaceutical bottles, and medicine electronics along with capsules and tablets packing known as blister packaging in a pharmaceutical industry.
Thin gauge thermoforming was projected to be the largest segment over the forecast period with a market share of 35% in terms of revenue in 2016. High labor cost and fluctuation raw material prices are major factors which negatively impact the market growth. Asia Pacific is the fastest growing segment with potential growth opportunities. Rising demand from industries such as automotive, medical, food packaging, construction, and pharmaceuticals in this region is expecting to boost the market over the forecast period. North America is expected to observe the significant regional segment over the next 8 years with an estimated CAGR in terms of revenue of around 4.8% from 2017 to 2025. Increasing manufacturers and suppliers of thin gauge thermoforming plastics in this region such as Placon, Vitalo, Peninsula Plastics, among others is anticipated to spur the market growth.
Further key findings from the report suggest:
• The global thermoformed plastics demand exceeded 380,000 tons in 2016 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.2% from 2017 to 2025
• Polypropylene accounted for around 21% of the overall market segment- emerged as the largest product segment in 2016 and is estimated to generate revenue over US$3.5 bln by 2025. PP is used to produce food packaging products such as cups, trays, margarine tubs, sandwich packs, disposable products, beverage glasses, and microwaveable containers. Increasing manufacturers of packaging products using polypropylene is projected to propel the industry.
• Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) is expected to be the fastest growing product segment owing to its high resistance nature towards UV light and extensive flexible properties. This product segment is expected to grow at the highest CAGR over the forecast period. Rising use of PMMA due to its extreme light transmission, high surface hardness and huge service life along with certain properties such as weathering and UV light resistance this product segment is anticipated to fuel the market. The completely recyclable nature by avoiding wastage and safeguarding the natural resources is a major driver for the increase in usage of this product. Increasing innovations, product developments, and investments in Middle East region on PMMA is anticipated to boost the production of the product
• Thin gauge thermoforming was projected to be the largest process segment and is anticipated to witness moderate growth over the next 8 years
• Automotive sector was 36000 tons in 2016 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.8% over the forecast period
• Food packaging was the significant application segment in 2016 and is projected to grow at a moderate rate owing to increasing consumption of ready to eat food is expected to boost this segment
• The food and medical packaging industry in Asia Pacific is projected to witness significant growth over the next eight years owing to various developments across major economies and increasing per capita income. The regional market in terms of revenue is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.2% from 2017 to 2025.
• Key players including Pactiv LLC, D&W Fine Pack LLC, Genpak LLC, and Sonoco Plastics dominated the global thermoformed plastics market accounting for significant share of the total volume in 2016
U.S. thermoformed plastics market by application, 2014 - 2025 (USD Billion) (Grand View Research)
A thin gauge thermoforming plastic dominated the process segment in 2016 and is expected to remain the largest process segment over the forecast period. Using contact, radiant, and hot air heating techniques the thermoform products are manufactured. Increasing demand for thin gauge thermoforming packaging products as a medical device packaging trays in the healthcare sector is anticipated to augment the market over the forecast period. Thick gauge thermoforms are sturdy and rigid enclosures which are used to pack electronic equipment. The thick gauge thermoforming is used in wide range of applications including front & rear bumpers and interior trim components in heavy truck industry, enclosures for thread mills and weights in fitness equipment, huge decorative signs in signage, cowlings, dash components, and fenders in agricultural sector, cab interiors and engine covers in construction equipment industry. Plug assist forming is the fastest growing process segment over the forecast period. Rising use of plug assist forming products in food packaging is projected to boost the market growth. The packaging materials formed using this method has uniform wall thickness with reduced starting gauge which protects the product safety and content storage.
Global thermoformed plastics market revenue by application, 2016 (%) (Grand View Research)
Automotive segment emerged as the fastest growing application segment in 2016. Increasing use of the product in this sector for its durability, reusable carts, and light-weight vehicle parts is projected to fuel the market growth over the forecast period. Increasing demand for automotive panels, liners, and vehicle parts is expected to spur the market from 2017 to 2025.
North America was the leading thermoformed plastics regional segment and accounted for around 53% of the total revenue in 2016. Rapid industrialization and growing packaging industry is projected to propel the market over the forecast period. Increasing manufacturers and suppliers of thermoformed plastic products in this region is expected to boost the industry growth. The U.S. is the significant market for producing thermoformed packaging followed by Canada. Asia Pacific is expected to be the fastest growing regional segment. Emerging economies in a region including India and China have been experiencing strong economic growth. Increasing population and disposable income have spurred the market demand in medical device packaging, automotive parts, and construction sectors. China is the largest producer and supplier of thermoformed plastics, equipment using different types of technologies in this region. China’s rapid urbanization is supported by strong economic growth. Increasing per capita disposable income in this region is projected to propel the market over the forecast period. Asia Pacific was the accounted for around 14% of the overall revenue in 2016. Rising developmental activities in Asia Pacific in the production of thermoformed plastic products is projected to propel the market over the forecast period. Increasing growth in automotive industries owing to light weight parts to improve the efficiency of the vehicle is anticipated to augment the market.
The global thermoformed plastics market is highly competitive and fairly concentrated, with major four companies Pactiv LLC, D&W Fine Pack LLC, Genpak LLC, and Sonoco Plastics accounting for a maximum share in the market. Major industry participants include Placon Corporation, Anchor Packaging, Spencer Industries, Brentwood Industries, Greiner Packaging, and Silgan Plastics. Increasing company product offerings for the end-use industries such as medical, food packaging, electrical & electronics, consumer & commercial sector, automotive, construction, and pharmaceuticals are expected to be a key parameter for being competitive in this market. Rising mergers and acquisitions being undertaken as an attempt to strengthen the presence and gain industry share.
As per Transparency Market Research, the global thermoformed plastics market is driven by the large application of thermoformed plastic in food packaging. As food packaging requires superior quality packaging materials to ensure protection against moisture, odor, and bacteria, which is provided by thermoplastics, their demand is significantly high in the food industry. Besides this, thermoformed plastics have recently found application in pharmaceutical articles packaging, which is projected to give significant boost to the market.
Thermoformed plastics have a wide range of applications and are also cost-effective, which have significantly aided in the market’s expansion over the last few years. The food industry is a major application segment of the market which is expected to drive global demand over the forecast period. Thermoform plastics used in this industry are less in weight, flexible, restrain to bacteria, and odor & moisture free in comparison to other packaging materials on account of which they are preferred over others such as wood and glass.
Despite the market’s positive trajectory up until now, it is yet to gain immunity to the effects of fluctuating raw material prices. Furthermore, the high labor cost often incurred in the manufacturing thermoplastics also has a negative effect on the global thermoformed plastics market. Additionally, it is a difficult task to attain precise wall thickness along with uniform thickness in products during the process of thermoforming. This could result in less durability of the products. As a results the manufacturers are exploring potential substitutes to thermoformed polymers, which is regarded as a key restraint for the market.
Due to the changing lifestyle and increasing disposable income, consumers across China and India have been exhibiting high demand for packaged food. Given the scenario, both these countries have emerged as lucrative markets for thermoformed plastics. TMR therefore observes attractive opportunities for market expansion in Asia Pacific. Besides this, the report has also identified increasing scope for the application for thermoforming process as manufacturers look to replace injection molding process owing to the lower cost incurred on tooling and benefits of high-speed production. Spurred by these factors, the demand for thermoformed plastics is expected to increase in developed and emerging markets alike.
Some of the leading market players are Associated Packaging Technologies, Anchor Packaging, Tegrant, Genpak, Peninsula CM Packaging, Placon Corporation, and Packaging, Pactiv.
Technavio predicts that the global thermoformed plastics market will grow progressively and post a CAGR of approximately 5% by 2020. The increasing usage of thermoformed plastics in food and healthcare packaging will be one of the primary drivers for this market. Thermoformed plastics in the form of clamshells will be used extensively in the food packaging industries because of its superior resistance to bacteria, odor, and moisture. Furthermore, the injection molded plastics will be used for the manufacturing of medical disposables and medical devices because of their unique engineering and designing properties including surgical gloves, plastic scissors, urology disposables.
Market analysts predict that the Americas will be the fastest growing market and will post a CAGR of around 5% by 2020. Among all the regions in the Americas, the US is envisaged to be the largest consumer of thermoformed plastics. The government in this region has implemented strict regulations to control emissions from vehicles. The implementation of such regulations has led to the replacement of metal parts with engineering plastics. Furthermore, with the extensive use thermoformed plastics in the packaging industry, the market in the Americas will exhibit strong growth over the next few years.
The market is highly competitive and is dominated by a few major players. The manufacturers will invest in technological innovations and the development of products with thick and thin gauge thermoforming, vacuum forming, pressure forming, and plug assist. Additionally, many vendors will be shifting their focus towards the productions of bio-derived, bio-degradable, and recyclable polymers as alternatives to conventional petroleum-based polymers. The adoption of new and improved technologies and the preference for uniformity in products will help sellers sustain the level of competition in the market during the period of next four years. During 2015, the polyethylene terephthalate segment dominated the market by accounting for approximately 40% of the total market share. The increasing applications of polyethylene terephthalate based thermoformed plastics in sectors such as personal care, medical, food, and other consumer product packaging will be one of the primary factors contributing to the growth of this segment.
In the food packaging segment, many vendors are focusing on producing products with durable quality designs and exceptional clarity and are also providing seals for industries dealing in disposable food packaging containers. This change in the vendors’ production preferences will aid in the growth of the food packaging application segment during the next four years.
According to Swapnil Tejveer Sharma, a lead analyst at Technavio for plastics, polymers, and elastomers research, “Unique properties such as easy moldability, fine surface, and excellent mechanical resistance make thermoformed plastics the preferred choice for applications such as food packaging, medical appliances, and consumer and commercial products across many industries.”
In 2015, with a market share of approximately 45%, Americas dominated the global thermoformed plastics market, followed by EMEA with 33% and APAC with around 22%.
The consumption of thermoformed plastics in the Americas is expected to exceed 2 mln metric tons by 2020, growing at a CAGR of more than 5%. The region is the largest consumer of thermoformed plastics, with the US as the major consumer. Regulations to control emissions from vehicles and increased replacement of metal parts with engineering plastics are the major drivers for the market growth. In the Americas, a large proportion of thermoformed plastics are used in the packaging industry. The growing population of the elderly in the US (14.5% of the US population is 65 years or older), increased use of disposable products, the importance of child-resistant and senior-friendly packaging, and the rise in tamper-evident packaging as well as contract packaging are the main factors driving the demand for thermoformed plastics in the Americas.
The consumption of thermoformed plastics in EMEA is expected to reach 1.5 mln metric tons by 2020, growing at a CAGR of close to 5%. The market for thermoformed plastics in EMEA is expected to grow steadily during the forecast period. France, Germany, and the UK are the major consumers of thermoformed plastics in the region. The increased use of high-performance engineering plastics in automobiles and in electrical and electronics applications is propelling market growth in the region. The consumption of thermoformed plastics in APAC will exceed 986 thousand metric tons by 2020, growing at a CAGR of more than 4%. The market for thermoformed plastics is expected to post robust growth in APAC. The growth in the manufacturing sector, especially in developing economies such as China and India, will drive the market growth in the region. The electronic industry in APAC is expected to grow at 4.5%-5.5% during the forecast period. Further, the rise in disposable incomes and changes in lifestyle are fostering the market for packaged foods in these countries, thereby increasing the consumption of thermoformed plastic food containers.
“However, the fluctuating cost of crude oil, the primary source of raw material for the production of thermoformed plastics, is a major challenge for manufacturers of thermoformed plastic products in the region,” says Swapnil.