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Thermoplastic elastomers to steer technological advancements that will drive growth of global elastomers market

Thermoplastic elastomers to steer technological advancements that will drive growth of global elastomers market

Increased demand from automotive industry, advancement in processing industry and increasing purchasing power in the developing economies are the key drivers of the elastomers market. Global elastomers market is expected to register CAGR of 6.1% and reach US$36 bln by 2022 from US$22.37 bln in 2014, as per Market Research Reports. Among the elastomers, the thermoplastic elastomers are likely to grow due to the diverse range of applications and increasing R&D efforts. However, volatility of crude oil prices and product commoditization are hampering the market growth. Depending on the various products, the market is segmented into thermoset elastomers and thermoplastic elastomers. Based on applications, the market is categorized into tire elastomers, automotive component, elastomers, architecture, sports products and medical products. China accounted for about 25% of the elastomers market share in 2014. The Asia-Pacific region being the largest market is expected to grow at a faster rate.

The global elastomer market totalled nearly 31.4 mln metric tons in 2013 and 32.5 mln metric tons in 2014, according to a report from BCC Research. The market is expected to grow to nearly 39 mln metric tons by 2019, with a CAGR of 3.7% from 2014 to 2019. Some segments in the industry will take off and enjoy rapid expansion through 2019, whereas others will dwindle in the next few years. The Chinese thermoplastic elastomer market will grow at a high CAGR of 8.6%, whereas thermoset elastomers in North America will experience a CAGR as low as 0.8%. Stricter environmental laws and new governmental goals will require elastomer producers to manufacture more recyclable tires and other elastomer products. To address the issue of global climate change, developed countries reached an agreement in 1997 called the Kyoto Protocol, promising to cut their emissions of carbon dioxide by 5.2% by 2012. An agreement was reached to extend the Kyoto Protocol during a plenary session at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP17) in Durban on December 11, 2011, and details were discussed further in subsequent international climate change talks. "The carbon reduction target will force tire manufacturers to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through efforts such as improving energy efficiency and recycling gas emissions. This trend will provide a strong momentum to push elastomers to develop new elastomer products for greenhouse gas reduction," says BCC Research analyst Jason Chen. “In tire application, the tread rubber, bead filler and inner liner could account for 39%, 13% and 8% of the oil consumption of a tire, respectfully. Elastomer manufacturers are developing new elastomer varieties to help tire producers reduce energy consumption.” Global tariffs have been raised for the global tire trade. The U.S., Argentina, Brazil and Russia have protected their tire industries by increasing the tariffs for imported tires in the last few years. The tariffs will inhibit the growth of tire exports and elastomers consumption in tire manufacturing countries, especially China. Global tariffs for elastomers also distort the advancement of elastomers. The Chinese government puts a significant deference between taxes on natural rubber and the so-called compounded rubber, which increases the unnecessary production of a large volume of compounded rubber for the sole purpose of reducing import taxes The global elastomers market is all set to usher in an era of innovation with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) increasingly demanding high-performance materials. Owing to the profusion of choice, customers are likely to base their purchase decisions on performance metrics such as durability, product finish, and flexibility of use. This, in turn, compels smaller companies to focus on product development to stay competitive.

Analysis of the global elastomers market has indicated that the market is set to grow by over US$10 bln by 2021. Analysis from Frost & Sullivan finds that the total market was worth US$21.52 bln in 2014 and is expected to grow to US$34.73 bln in 2021. Currently, the TPE segment is the torchbearer for technological advancements. Its primary focus is on improving processing attributes and enhancing design flexibility, while the product's inherent advantage of high recyclable content makes it the material of choice for sustainable solutions. As TPE enables a wide range of applications, it is rapidly attracting business from a diverse range of end-user markets, especially the fast-growing consumer electronics market. Compared to synthetic elastomer (SE), the thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) segment is expected to grow faster. The primary focus of the TPE segment is on improving processing attributes and enhancing design flexibility, while it is also sustainable due to the high recyclable content. As TPE enables a wide range of applications, it is rapidly attracting business from a diverse range of end-user markets, especially the consumer electronics market. Shubhayan Sarkar, Frost & Sullivan Chemicals, Materials and Food Research Analyst, said, "Meanwhile, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are also making a beeline for non-latex solutions due to escalating environmental concerns and biohazard and skin sensitization issues in the medical and hygiene industry. This bodes well for SE compounds, as they offer superior flexibility and tactile sensitivity." Despite the vibrancy of the market, it is facing competition from alternative materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and specialty plastics. This has opened up the market to elastomers vendors that are able to substitute PVC and metals with competing plastic compounds as well as reinforced and composite materials. The global market for elastomers is expected to grow even with the saturation of the manufacturing bases in North America and Western Europe, as the burgeoning of end industries in Asia-Pacific and Rest of the World has restored balance to the market. Nonetheless, factors such as the declining demand of solid wire and cable in external insulation and the high cost of switching to TPE can dampen the growth of the elastomers market. Another serious concern for the market is a possible raw material shortage. However, participants can stave off this challenge through vertical integration. Consolidations with regional participants with specialised product capabilities will also allow larger companies to boost their market share and regional visibility. Partnership agreements involving compound/component manufacturers and OEMs will become more prevalent for specific application segments. Sarkar added, "Polymer manufacturers that are backwardly integrated will have better control over the volatility of raw material prices, which will help them maintain a competitive edge in the long run. Overall, a consistent supply of high-performance products will be the key differentiator among market participants."

Global thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) market is expected to reach US$19.76 bln by 2022, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc. High substitution rate of thermoplastic elastomers, such as TPU and TPO, as an alternative to ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) in construction materials is expected to drive TPE demand over the forecast period. Growing demand for lightweight, high performance materials from automotive industry in order to improve fuel efficiency by reducing overall weight of automobiles is expected to fuel TPE demand over the forecast period. Volatile prices of key raw material such as styrene, propylene and polyurethane are expected to remain a key challenge for market participants. SBC was the single largest product segment and accounted for 47.1% of total market volume in 2014. Increasing demand for SIS, particularly in China & India, in automotive applications is expected to drive the product segment growth over the next seven years. Paving and roofing was the leading application segment for SBC and accounted for almost 35% of the product volume in 2014. Further key findings from the study suggest:
* Global thermoplastic elastomers market was 4.01 mln tons in 2014 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.8% from 2015 to 2022
* Thermoplastic vulcanizates (TPV) is expected to witness the highest growth of 6.7% from 2015 to 2022. Increasing demand for specialty high performance plastics in automotive industry is expected to drive TPV demand
* Asia Pacific was the largest regional market and accounted for over 40% of total consumption in 2014.
* The regional market is characterized by high industrial growth as a result of favorable government policies and monetary framework encouraging private investments in manufacturing sector.
* China and India are major TPE consumers are expected to grow exponentially over the forecast period. These two countries accounted for approximately 66% of the regional demand in 2014. North America was the leading TPO consumer and accounted for 35.5% of the product volume in 2014. Its increasing demand in industrial & construction applications is expected to drive the regional growth.
Global TPE industry is moderately concentrated with top four companies accounting for over 45% of the overall market share in 2014. Major companies operating globally include Arkema, Bayer MaterialScience, Dynasol Elastomers, Evonik, Kraton and Dow Chemical Co.

According to SmithersRapra, Specialty elastomers market will experience average growth of 5.54% between 2015 and 2019. The global elastomer market is estimated to have been just over 29 mln tons in 2013 and this is set to increase by over 5% in the near future. The vast majority of consumption in 2013 was for general purpose elastomers, such as natural rubber (NR), styrene-butadiene rubbers (SBRs), polybutadeiene rubber (BR), butyl rubber (IIR) and ethylene-propylene-diene-monomer rubber (EPDM), which represented approximately 95% of the total. The remaining 5% was made up of a wide range of specialty elastomers, some of which were modifications of general purpose elastomers and some were standalone products. According to the report, the principal industrial markets for specialty elastomers are: transportation, electronic applications, building and construction, medical, healthcare and hygiene, leisure and sports. The main driver for specialty elastomers is demand from the automotive industry. In general, specialty elastomers are only used where they are absolutely needed. Wherever possible, a lower cost product will be attempted, by redesigning the component. However, this is not often possible. Thus, specialty elastomer growth is powered by demand and not fashion. Many applications are not seen, thus black pigmented elastomers are often used. Although the overall economic picture in Europe is not looking particularly promising, the UK is faring much better than its European partners. It has a growing GDP and although slightly less than France at US$2556 bln, it is predicted to overtake France in the next few years. Its success is mainly due to a fast growing automotive industry, as well as a very buoyant financial market. The North American economy has taken on a fairly dramatic growth in the last few months. The main contributing factor would appear to be the increased exploitation of the shale gas and oil reserves. Mexico is also pushing ahead very quickly, though Canada seems to be suffering some small setbacks. In Asia, China’s economy is beginning to slow down. Automotive production is at an all-time high, with a growth of 14.8% versus 2012. Specialty elastomers do not consume nearly as much in raw materials as commodities and only in the case of silicone elastomers is there an exceptional route to the production of these elastomers. Recently, major investments have been made in China that will guarantee for a considerable amount of time free availability of silicone-based raw materials. The production of silicone polymers demands extremely high amounts of low-cost energy and an abundant supply of methyl alcohol. The future shale gas situation ensures the future of both of these needs. The main driver for specialty elastomers is demand from the automotive industry. Other end uses are also being challenged and find that the solution is often to go up to a higher performance material. Weight saving is not an issue here, but the increasing compactness of engineering space, especially in automotive applications, is not leaving much choice other than specialty elastomers. This trend is increasing as competition builds, thus providing specialty elastomers with a safe future.

An elastomer is a polymer with viscosity and elasticity along with weak inter-molecular forces. It includes both thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) and thermoset elastomers (TSEs). TSEs, also known as rubbers, include natural rubber (NR) and synthetic rubber. Synthetic rubbers include synthetic polyisoprene rubber (IR), polybutadiene rubber (BR), styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR), nitrile rubber (NBR), chloroprene rubber (CR), isobutylene isoprene rubber (IIR), ethylene propylene monomer (EPM) and ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM). NR, IR, BR, SBR, NBR and CR are unsaturated rubbers. IIR, EPM and EPDM are saturated rubbers. TPEs include thermoplastic styrenic (TPS), thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO), thermoplastic vulcanizate (TPV), thermoplastic polyester elastomer (TPEE) and thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU). Other TPEs with relatively small volumes of consumption include thermoplastic polyamides (TPA), polyvinyl chloride-based thermoplastic elastomer (TPVC) and melt processable rubber (MPR). TPS, also known as styrene block copolymer (SBC), is the largest product in terms of volume.

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