TPE to Increasingly Replace Conventional Materials
Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) are as elastic as rubber, but at the same time as easy to process as standard plastics. Spreading from the automotive industry, they increasingly replace conventional materials. They are also interesting because they can be manufactured from renewable resources.According to a recent study of market research institute Ceresana, about USD16.7 billion were generated with the sale of TPE on the world market in 2014. The market researchers forecast revenues to increase by, on average, 4.7% p.a. until 2022.
The largest sales market for thermoplastic elastomers is the automotive industry: this branch consumed about 40% of total production. The applications of the various, highly diverse classes of TPE cover segments such as fabric coating and sealing components as well as bumpers. TPE are also increasingly used in the construction industry, machine construction, medical technology and other industrial branches. Further important applications include shoe soles, sporting goods, but also toys and household devices.
The market shares of individual types of TPE vary widely from country to country. This is mainly due to the differing size of sales branches and the difference in quality standards and price levels. The worldwide most commonly used type of TPE is the group of styrene block copolymers (SBC) with applications ranging from adhesive admixtures to asphalt modification in road construction. The second largest TPE market comprises thermoplastic polyolefins (TPO), which are mainly used in the automotive industry. Thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) are, amongst others, processed into door handles for cars, ski boots or cable sheathing. The highest growth rates in the future Ceresana forecasts for thermoplastic vulcanizates (TPV) that are used for, e.g., hoses and sealings.
Largest Economies Dominating the Market
China, the USA, Japan and Germany are the four largest consumers of thermoplastic elastomers; they accounted for about 63% of global TPE demand in 2014. Ceresana forecasts the highest growth rates for the regions Asia-Pacific and South America, China, India and Brazil in particular. Even consumption on established markets in North America and Western Europe will increase by at least 2% p.a. in the future. The continuous rise of demand is attracting many new producers, especially in Asia. China alone increased its TPE output by more than 600,000 tonnes in the last eight years. Thus, Chinese net import volume was reduced slightly, despite a strong increase of demand.
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