What’s driving the growth of engineering thermoplastics? According to The Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry market research firm, metal-to-plastic conversions are playing a big role in this increased demand for engineering thermoplastics. Anecdotally, we’re seeing more and more metal-to-plastic conversion requirements among mold manufacturers from their customers due to the many advantages that plastics offer.
New technological advancements in molds and molding, the push toward light-weighting of all types of vehicles and equipment, are also factors in the increase in demand for engineering plastics in the U.S. which is expected to rise 2.6% per year to 5.1 billion pounds in 2019, said the Freedonia Group study.
The only factor that will temper this growth will be weak growth in mature markets, in addition to increasing competition from lower cost commodity resins. The largest markets for engineering plastics, according to The Freedonia Group, will continue to be the motor vehicle and electrical and electronic markets.
The motor vehicle market will increasingly rely on engineering plastics to reduce vehicle weight in order to improve fuel efficiency. However, the construction and the medical and consumer markets will provide the fastest growth.
Nylon, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS), and polycarbonate will continue to be the three largest engineering plastics by volume, accounting for three-quarters of total demand in 2019. Nylon will post the most rapid increases of the three and will remain the largest engineering plastic. According to Joseph Kocian, one of the authors of this study, “This growth will be mainly driven by nylon supplanting metals in under-hood motor vehicle applications.”
Gains for ABS will be the slowest of all engineering plastics, restrained by competition from lower-cost resins and maturity in major applications. Polycarbonate will benefit from strong growth in the construction and the medical and consumer markets, but overall will track the industry average due to the continued decline in CD and DVD sales.
Smaller-volume engineering plastics such as polyphenylene sulfide, sulfone polymers, fluoropolymens, and polyketones will exhibit the fastest growth. Specialized use in mature markets, as well as utilization in new products such as advanced batteries, photovoltaic modules and medical implants, will drive overall demand. These resins will see greater use in electrical and electronic and motor vehicle markets, where they are typically used to fill specific high-temperature needs and their greater cost can be economically justified.
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