US demand for engineering plastics is projected to grow at 3.5% pa to 5.4 billion pounds in 2010, a marked improvement over the five-year period from 2000 to 2005, as per a report by Freedonia. The turnaround will be driven by a resurgent electrical and electronics market, the largest consumer of engineering resins, and by increasing per vehicle usage in the large motor vehicle market. Advances will also benefit from the continued drive to replace metal and other materials with lightweight, cost-effective, high performance plastics. However, gains for engineering plastics will be tempered by increasing market maturity and competition with lower-cost commodity resins.
Polycarbonate and polyesters will offer the best growth prospects among higher-volume resins. Polycarbonate demand will be fueled by solid gains in business machine, medical product, and skylight and glazing applications; as well as the increasing use of polycarbonate in blends with other plastics. However, slowdowns in the optical media (CDs and DVDs) market will inhibit demand for polycarbonate, and increasing offshore production will limit export opportunities. The largest engineering plastic by volume, ABS, is expected to grow at a much slower rate. Polyacetal will also experience below-average gains due to market maturity in many key industrial and automotive applications. On the whole, demand for smaller-volume engineering resins will advance at a substantially faster pace than their large-volume counterparts. Polyphenylene sulfide, polyamides and polysulfones will lead gains, driven by increasing use in high-temperature applications such as electrical connectors and under-the-hood motor vehicle parts. Fluoropolymers will also see growing opportunities in wire and cable coatings and industrial components.
Electrical and electronic products and motor vehicles were the dominant markets for engineering plastics in 2005, combining to account for 60% of total demand.
From the level of 850,000 tons in 2007, demand for engineering plastics in USA will grow to 1 million tons by 2012, valued at almost US$11 billion, as per another report by Freedonia. Advances will be driven by a continued trend toward the replacement of metal parts with high-performance plastic, which feature advantages such as reduced weight, lower costs and increased durability. ABS, Polycarbonate and polyamide will continue to be the three largest volume engineering plastics, accounting for over three-quarters of total demand in 2012. Additionally, engineering plastics will increase their penetration into car components, as the volume of polymer used per vehicle is expected to rise 12 pounds by 2012. Fastest growth in engineering plastics demand, however, is forecast for the consumer and institutional market, driven by the expanding use of high performance materials in medical product applications. In value terms, engineering plastics demand will advance 3.9% pa through 2010 based on strong growth in higher-cost specialty resins.
| US ENGINEERING PLASTICS DEMAND (million pounds)
| % Annual Growth
| Engineering Plastics Demand
As per another report by Freedonia, growth in the Thai market will augur well for the total engineering plastics market in South East Asia. The engineering plastics market in SEA has witnessed rapid growth in the last four years, aided by
stable and healthy economic growth trend, increasing demand from the end-user market, rapid development of the engineering plastics industry and numerous other factors. The engineering plastics market in SEA is one of the most technologically advanced plastics markets. The current growth levels are expected to continue with Thailand, the main region for consumption of engineering plastics, driving the growth of the overall engineering plastics market.
Thailand has increasingly become one of the global production bases for automotives, with the reputation of �Detroit of Asia�. Growth in Thailand can be attributed to an increase in end-user demand following the imminent expansion and growth of its automotive industry. Macroeconomic factors such as foreign capital investment and ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) in Thailand also drive the market growth in the country. Furthermore, increase in electrical and household appliance sectors manufacturing is expected to strengthen consumption of engineering plastics. Despite the rising demand for engineering plastics in SEA, increasing cost of raw materials and erosion of profit margins due to stiff competition impede market growth. With the mounting production cost, especially in Malaysia and Singapore, many end users are relocating to other cost-effective parts of Asia such as China and Thailand. This poses a major challenge to the engineering plastics manufacturers in Malaysia and Singapore.