Chandler Slavin, sustainability coordinator and marketing manager for thermoforming manufacturer Dordan, told PlasticsToday while she had not read the study, she did have some assumptions on why there's an anticipated increase in thermoformed plastics demand.
She said an increasing global population begets increased demand for thermoformed plastic products, be it consumer (rigid packaging) or industrial (building and construction) applications. In addition, Slavin said the growth of the middle class along with consumption in BRIC economies, especially in Latin America as Brazil prepares for the 2016 Olympics, facilitates increased thermoformed plastics product demand.
"A gradual economic recovery with consolidation in thermoforming allows for a healthier industry more apt to serve its customers," she said. "Changes and upgrades in technology allow thermoformed plastic products to penetrate markets formally monopolized by other processes, like injection molding."
The packaging segment for thermoformed plastics, accounts for 80% of the total volume consumed, ReportsnReports stated. This sector was worth 4.8 billion lb in 2011 and is expected to grow to 4.9 billion lb in 2012 and nearly 6 billion lb by 2017, a CAGR of 4%.
Slavin said the industrial thermoforming industry was hit hard by the recession due to the decline of housing and construction, transportation and automotive, signage, and marine industries.
Consequently, thermoformed packaging dominates the thermoformed plastics market as its end markets are more stratified and therefore less impacted by the economic recession, she said.
"Consumer market research indicates that transparent packaging, clamshells and blisters, facilitates increased product sales, due to consumers' visual identification with product," Slavin said.
The market for thermoformed plastic appliances was 765 million lb in 2011. This segment is projected to increase at a 4% CAGR, from 797 million lb in 2012 to 971 million lb by 2017.
With regards to potential trends in the thermoformed industry, Slavin cited optimizing inventory control and implementing robotics integration, upgrades to extrusion, thermoforming and assembly equipment, and workforce training programs.
She also sees thermoforming processes replacing injection molding "due to speed of production and lower tooling costs." In addition, she believes there will be an increased focus on sustainability via thin-walling and the use of recycled and/or bio-based materials.