Global Engineering Plastics - Insights
Engineering plastics are plastic materials with better thermal and mechanical properties than commodity plastics such as polypropylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, and polyethylene. Engineering plastics are relatively expensive and therefore are produced in lower quantities and are used in low-volume applications such as mechanical parts. Engineering plastics are widely used as an option to ceramics, glass, wood, and metals as these materials can maintain dimensional and mechanical stability below 0°C and above 100°C.
Several industries are focused on replacing conventional materials such as metals, glass, and alloys with engineering plastics. This is one of the major drivers propelling growth of the global engineering plastics market. According to the Association of Plastics Manufacturers, in 2015, around 10% of the plastic used worldwide is engineering plastics. Moreover, bio-based engineering plastics such as polycarbonates and polyamides are witnessing significant growth in demand as these help in reducing the carbon footprint.
Among product type, Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) segment accounted for the largest share of around 30.4% in the engineering plastics market in 2017. This is owing to a wide range of applications of UHMWPE in headlights, gear housing, electronic stability program control modules, door controllers or airbag connections, steering angle sensors, fiber optic cables, and others.
Asia Pacific is expected to be largest market in the global automotive industry over the forecast period, which in turn is expected to propel growth of the global engineering plastics market. According to the U.S. International Trade Administration (ITA), China was the largest vehicle producer between 2012 and 2014 and the average number of vehicles produced between 2012 and 2014 was 17.8 million. Moreover, vehicle production in China is expected to cross 27 million by 2020, thereby fuelling growth of the engineering plastics market in this region.
Figure 1. Global Engineering Plastics Market Share (%), By Application, 2017
Among application type, the automotive & transportation segment accounted for the largest share in the global engineering plastics market in 2017. Several applications of engineering plastic in automotive and transportation include, under-the-hood components, wheel well, connectors & housing, lighting & components such as headlamps & fog lamps, headlamp structural housings, and reflectors & lighting sockets.
Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) is projected to be the second-largest segment in the engineering plastics market. PMMA can withstand extreme weather conditions and thus, is used in various applications such as light guide panels in the lighting units of LCD screens, indicator housings, outdoor and indoor lighting in the automotive industry, mobile phone lenses, street lamps, and others.
Figure 2. Global Engineering Plastics Market Share (%), By Region, 2017
Asia Pacific held the dominant position in the global engineering plastics market in 2017, with a revenue of US$ 37.5 billion and is expected to retain its dominance throughout the forecast period. This is owing to significant growth of industries such as automotive, chemicals, packaging, electrical & electronics, and others in emerging economies such as China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and others. According to China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) and Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), sales of cars in China was 28.03 million and 3 million in India, in 2016 respectively.
Europe accounted for a significant share in the global engineering plastics market in 2017. This is owing to presence of major players in the region such as BASF SE, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, Evonik Industries AG and others, and their initiatives to expand business in order to gain high revenue. For instance, in 2018, BASF SE announced plans to acquire Solvay SA’s global polyamide business. This is expected to expand BASF’s range of engineering plastics for consumer goods, construction, and transportation industries and is expected to strengthen its access to raw materials.
Major players operating in the global engineering plastics market include, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, BASF SE, Solvay S.A., Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, Mitsubishi Engineering-Plastics Corporation, Covestro AG, Lanxess AG, Evonik Industries AG, Celanese Corporation, and others.