Material Thoughts: Automotive, medical applications driving greater use of TPEs


Thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) are finding use in an increasing number of applications and, thanks to machine and auxiliary equipment technology, more plastics processors are finding use for these materials. A recent report from The Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry research firm, shows that global demand for TPEs is forecast to rise 6.4% per year to 5.6 million tonnes in 2015. This represents acceleration from the pace of demand in the 2005-2010 period. TPE suppliers can thank the rebounding automotive industry - the leading outlet for TPEs - in the U.S. and Western Europe for the demand increase.

Most TPE demand is linked to the production of durable goods. In addition to the motor vehicle industry, other applications are found in industrial products, and consumer goods such as footwear, appliances and household goods. In the automotive market, demand gains will be driven by the development of new products for exterior and interior applications at the expense of competing materials such as thermoset rubber and some thermoplastics (e.g. polyvinylchloride - PVC), the Freedonia report notes. Thermoplastic polyolefins (TPOs) will remain the dominant TPE product type used in motor vehicles. TPEs already hold a "formidable position in exterior applications" and demand will be "bolstered by rising applications in interior components, particularly instrument panels and door skins," according to Freedonia.
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