The term engineering plastics usually refers to thermoplastic materials (polymers that are pliable or moldable above a specific temperature, and upon cooling gets back to a solid state) rather than thermosetting ones (polymers that are irreversibly cured).
Lakshmi Narayanan – Associate Vice President : Chemicals & Materials Research, at MarketsandMarkets™, shares his Point of View as mentioned below:
Some of the important recent developments in the Engineering Plastics are;
- Celanese Corporation has decided to acquire India-based Next Polymers Ltd, one of the leading engineering thermoplastics (ETP) compounders.
- BASF has launched Ultradur®HR with improved processing and higher flowability. Ultradur®HR is a hydrolysis-resistant thermoplastic polyester that is designed to suit the automotive industry for highly effective sensors.
- BASF started a new production line of Ultroson in Korea. This new production unit has added an annual capacity of 6,000 metric tons of polyarylsulfone, and this expansion has helped the company to serve growing global demand for high-performance thermoplastic in the automotive and electronics industry.
- Solvay has expanded its production capacity of sulfone polymers in India and US to address increasing demand from medical and water treatment industries. This expansion has bolstered the company’s position in sulfone polymer manufacturing, and this will benefit from booming demand from fast-growing industries such as water purification and healthcare.
- SABIC has unveiled new polycarbonates based LEXAN™ CXT resin that offers high temperature resistance, high flow and excellent colourability. This new product has helped company to cater electronics, consumer & industrial and healthcare industries.
- SABIC has started its first polyacetal plant in Jubail (ME&A). This expansion has given a significant boost to SABIC’s position in the global engineering thermoplastics.
Engineering plastics offer superior mechanical and/or thermal properties than other widely used commodity plastics. The engineering plastics are largely consumed for the production of low-volume applications (such as mechanical components), rather than for bulk production such as containers and packaging).
Some of the widely used engineering plastics are acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) which offers high heat and chemical resistance and preferred for use in automotive, buildings, construction, electronics etc. for production of car bumpers, and dashboard trim etc. Polycarbonate (PC) is a resin which has grown phenomenally due to its applications in optical media due to its high performance.
Styrene acrylonitrile (SAN) provides high weather and stress crack resistance and is used in automotive, consumer durable etc. Polyamides (nylons) are also engineering plastics and are widely used adventure sports gear. Engineering plastics have gradually replaced conventional engineering materials such as wood, paper, glass, and metals such as steel, aluminum, etc. in many applications.
Engineering plastics have favorable properties such as lower weight and higher strength, they are easier to manufacture, especially in complex shapes. They are one of the materials of choice in the automotive industry as OEMs, and component manufacturers focus on lowering fuel consumption and emissions by weight reduction. Lately, vehicles are also becoming ‘connected,’ giving rise to more use of electronics. All this bodes well for increased demand for engineering plastics in the automotive industry.
The emerging regions such as Asia, Middle-East, South America, and developing countries in Europe have potential high growth prospects for engineering plastics. In the emerging markets growing purchasing power, construction and infrastructure growth in the developing economies is a key driver of demand for engineering plastics. Novel applications are coming from tapping opportunities that replace metals not just in automobiles, but also in consumer durables, construction, and infrastructure, telecommunications and transportation.
According to MarketsandMarkets™ the Engineering Plastics Market is estimated to reach USD 115.10 billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 7.2% from 2018 to 2023.
Nylon, ABS, and polycarbonate will remain the three largest engineering plastics by volume, with nylon the fastest growing of the three. Smaller-volume engineering plastics such as Polyphenylene sulfide, sulfone polymers, and fluoropolymers will grow the fastest. For auto and auto component industry applications, countries such as China & India are looked upon as high growth potential markets in the Asia-Pacific.
According to MarketsandMarkets™ Analysts, the engineering plastics industry in India grows at the double the rate of auto production in the country. The average consumption of engineering plastics (excluding ABS, POM, PC, PP reinforced) components in cars in India is around 5 kg at the moment, compared to that of 18-20 kg per car in developed markets.
Low-volume engineering plastics such as polyphenylene sulfide, sulfone polymers, fluoropolymers, and poly-ketones are expected to grow the fastest. The specialized need in developed applications and usage in new applications is expected
According to MarketsandMarkets™ the automotive industry is the largest end-user industry for the engineering plastics consuming more than 25% of the production
The engineering plastics are used in automotive applications such as interior-trims, dashboards, lighting components; exterior-headlights, tail lamps, powertrain; and under the hood components-air intake manifolds, radiator end tanks, fuel rails, etc. According to industry experts, the use of engineering plastics expected to grow rapidly in automotive as OEMs stress upon reducing costs and increasing fuel efficiency however this development needs a serious investment in innovation at suppliers’ end.
Some of the plastics manufacturers have begun working with OEMs to identify the components that are being produced with metals and can be replaced by engineering plastics with result suited to OEMs requirements and lightweight strategy.
Few such examples are DSM supplying plastics-made crankshaft covers for Volkswagen, replacing aluminum, Borouge offering advanced reinforced polypropylene that could replace metal in dashboards to Chinese auto component makers. These suppliers are offering value-added solutions matching the needs of automakers, and this is an exciting development for the engineering plastics industry.
Medical and construction are fast emerging application markets for Engineering Plastics.
In the medical applications, medical instrumentation such as scalpels and syringes, diagnostic equipment casings, and research application tools signifies some of the growing sectors for engineering plastics. For example, polycarbonate has a combination of rigidity, strength, and toughness that are essential properties in medical applications as they help prevent material failures that might be potentially life-threatening. Typical medical applications for polycarbonate include cardiac surgery products, surgical instruments, renal dialysis, intravenous connection components, etc. Devices such as dialysis machines and incubators etc. are made using engineering plastics.
Polycarbonate offers many advantages over the conventional materials in the construction applications and is widely used in construction applications such as roofing, glazing, etc. Engineering plastics, owing to their lightweight, transparent, and strong nature are very useful in constructing light and airy architectural designs and is increasingly being used in the construction applications. They have many diverse glazing applications such as stadiums, sports halls, malls, industrial roofing, continuous roof lights, etc.
The recently published report by MarketsandMarkets™ on engineering plastics focuses upon these and many other industry aspects. The report titled; “Engineering Plastics Market by Type (Polycarbonate, Polyamide, ABS, PET & PBT, POM, Fluoropolymers), End-Use Industry (Automotive & Transport, Electrical & Electronics, Industrial & Machinery, Packaging, Consumer Appliances) – Global Forecast to 2023” covers engineering plastics Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, Polyamides, Polycarbonates, Thermoplastic Polyesters, Polyacetals, Fluoropolymers.
The leading producers of engineering plastics profiled in the report are: BASF SE (Germany), Covestro (Germany), Solvay SA (Belgium), Celanese Corporation (U.S.), E. I. DuPont (U.S.), LG Chem (South Korea), SABIC (Saudi Arabia), Evonik Industries AG (Germany), Lanxess AG (Germany), Mitsubishi Engineering Plastics Corporation (Japan).