Growth for high-end, specialty engineering plastics will far outpace the bread-and-butter, big-volume types as design engineers push the needle on applications requiring high heat or other demanding properties in automotive, aircraft, medical and other markets. The result has been some supply problems for high-growth materials such as Ultem PEI, while polycarbonate producers are rationalizing capacity.
A new report from Fredonia puts some numbers on the trend. US demand for engineering plastics will grow 2.6 percent per year to 5.1 billion pounds in 2019, valued at $11.2 billion, the Ohio-based firm forecasts.
ABS, polycarbonate, and nylon will remain the largest volume engineering plastics, accounting for more than 80 percent of the market through 2019. PEEK, PPS, sulfone polymers, and fluoropolymers will grow at above-average rates.
PEEK is a good example of what’s happening in high-end engineering plastics.
Solvay Specialty Polymers this month began construction in Georgia on the first world-scale polyether-etherketone (PEEK) resin production unit in the United States to meet growing demand for its KetaSpire and AvaSpire polymers.
Victrex, the global capacity leader in PEEK, recently brought on line an expansion at its plant in Hillhouse, England, that increases capacity by 70 percent –-from 4,250 metric tons per annum to more than 7,150 metric tons.
Victrex views the metal replacement market at more than 70,000 metric tons, with the focus on automotive, aircraft, oil and gas, and medical. Gears are a major metal replacement target in automotive, while Victrex considers brackets a mega program in aircraft.
There are also significant polymer replacement opportunities in the electronics market, particularly for Aptiv PEEK film.