Metal replacement, emerging technologies drive growth in U.S. demand for engineering plastics

U.S. demand for engineering plastics is expected to rise 2.6% annually to reach 5.1 billion pounds in 2019, according to a report from the Freedonia Group (Cleveland, OH). Metal replacement in existing products along with technological advances that will open the door to new applications for engineering plastics will drive growth. Demand, however, will be tempered by weak growth in mature markets and increasing competition from lower cost commodity resins, adds the market research firm. These and other trends are presented in a new study, Engineering Plastics.

The largest markets for engineering plastics will continue to be the automotive and electrical and electronics sectors, notes the report. The motor vehicle market will increasingly rely on engineering plastics to reduce vehicle weight in order to improve fuel efficiency. The fastest growth, however, will come from the construction, medical and consumer markets.

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, says Freedonia.

Nylon will post the most rapid increase of the three and will remain the largest engineering plastic. According to analyst Joseph Kocian, "This growth will be mainly driven by nylon supplanting metals in under-the-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, medical and consumer markets, but overall will track the industry average because of continued decline in CD and DVD sales.

Smaller-volume engineering plastics such as polyphenylene sulfide, sulfone polymers, fluoropolymers, and polyketones will exhibit the fastest growth. Specialized use in mature markets, as well as use in new products such as advanced batteries, photovoltaic modules and medical implants, will drive overall demand, according to Freedonia. These resins will see greater use in the electrical and electronic and motor vehicle markets, where they are typically used to fill specific high-temperature needs and the cost premium can be economically justified.

Engineering plastics table

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