Copolyester elastomers (TPE-Es) will be the fastest growing TPE grade across the Smither’s study period. This is due to its superior heat resistance and chemical resistance helping to increase its use in automotive applications.
Besides their inherent performance differences, the other key driver for the differing fortunes of all TPE grades will be shifts in the end-use markets that buy products made from them.
The automotive industry and related sectors – like rail and aerospace – account for the largest end-use application for TPEs. This is around 43 percent of global demand in 2016, and will enjoy an above average annual growth rate through to the end of the decade.
The main evolution in this market will be the drive for high performance TPEs with heat and chemical resisting properties. This is being prompted by vehicle designers making models with higher under the bonnet temperatures, which place a correspondingly higher strain on components of air induction systems that are made from TPEs. Across the segment this will lead a trend away from commodity TPEs towards high-performance TPEs, and in some instances manufacturers may even revert to vulcanised elastomers – although price is also an important consideration for auto manufacturers.
A major breakthrough in the last few years has been the choice of TPEs as replacements for PVC for both supported and unsupported automotive foils, usually referred to as vehicle skins. This is occurring because the former are more environmentally friendly, in that:
they are lighter weight, cutting lifetime fuel consumption
are easier to recycle when a car is scrapped
release few volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during production.
Replacing PVC – this time in moulded window frames – is also a key spur for TPE use in the building and construction segments. Other applications include seals, gaskets, pond and reservoir liners, and highly resilient roofing materials.
This is the second largest end-use application, but one that Smithers forecasts will see below-average expansion between now and 2020.