Auto industry is fuelling the global demand for thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) and is expected to rise 5.2 percent per year to 6.7 million metric tonnes in 2019, according to a Freedonia Group report. Advances will be driven by ongoing product innovation on the part of TPE manufacturers and compounders, allowing these materials to penetrate new applications.
Thermoplastic elastomers will continue to replace metals, thermoset rubbers, and other thermoplastics because they offer easier and faster processing as well as functionality in demanding environments. Additionally, TPE demand will benefit from the ongoing push to reduce motor vehicle weight, particularly as automotive fuel economy standards around the world become more stringent. Healthy growth will also be fuelled by advances in emerging markets, which will benefit from increased adoption of TPEs over competing materials in applications such as adhesives and industrial components.
The Asia/Pacific region will continue to be the largest market for TPEs through 2019, rising at an above average pace to account for over half of world demand. China, the world’s largest consumer of thermoplastic elastomers in volume terms, will continue to see more than seven percent annual growth in demand. Gains will also benefit from robust expansion in India and Southeast Asia, where manufacturing output is expected to rise strongly. TPE demand in North America and Western Europe will see modest slowing compared to the 2009-2014 period of economic recovery, although advances will remain solid. Other world regions will enjoy above-average gains in demand through 2019, particularly the Africa/ Mideast region, where current TPE consumption per capita is lowest.
Styrenic block copolymers (SBCs) will remain the leading TPE product type through 2019. SBC demand will benefit from healthy growth in adhesives and consumer products, although the large and mature footwear market will limit advances. “The fastest gains are expected for thermoplastic vulcanisates (TPVs), which are penetrating new applications in motor vehicle, consumer, and medical product markets. Smaller volume TPEs including copolyesters, fluoropolymers, and silicones are penetrating markets with strict regulatory and performance requirements. A resurgent motor vehicle industry will propel demand for thermoplastic polyolefins (TPOs), although advances will be restrained by maturity in applications such as automotive bumper fascia,” said Freedonia in a press release.
Motor vehicles account for the largest portion of the world TPE market. Advances will be bolstered by increased automotive production in emerging markets, and by growth in the amount of TPE used per vehicle in North America and Western Europe.
Automotive markets will also benefit from such technological enhancements as overmolding TPE thin skins to thermoplastics in interior components. Industrial products will experience the fastest gains in demand, as rising manufacturing activity in emerging markets will incorporate TPEs to improve ergonomic and soft-touch features for industrial equipment. Healthy growth will be seen in other market categories such as packaging, wire & cable, and consumer products. For these applications, TPEs offer property balance and a perceived environmental benefit over PVC.