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Françoise Pardos, Pardos Marketing, February 2006


Growth drivers

Here are a number of comments that will be better developed in the next papers, just at random:

New industrial countries

Everything has been said about the promises of the globalization and the world becoming one through the next fifty years. A vast background can be found, for instance, in a report from Morgan Stanley in end 2003, about the rise of the BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China. Shell, among others, also offers a very broad variety of scenarios for the coming decades. 

Just as an example, as the world watches China, it is said there that this is just a normal set back to normal. The Chinese economy was an estimated 30 % of the total world riches up to the sixteenth century. China’s share of the world went down to 2 % in the twentieth century, now the target is to get back to the 30 % world share, as a sort of birth right.

In general, in the world, there will be more cars produced, in the next ten years, than there have been in the last 100 years.


A major feature at the present time, and accelerating since it started less than ten years ago, is the migration of business from Europe and North America to Asia, particularly China.

This shift has variable impacts on the Western industries. It is particularly significant in industries such as telectronics, electricity, telephones, computers, office machines, power tools, garden equipment. The impact is relatively less in the car industry but fast happening. It is also very strong in some commodity markets, like the retail bags of PE, for which special temporary protective measures were taken in early 2004.

The move to China has considerably affected local converters, unless they were strong enough to follow the trend, and local suppliers like bag makers in the UK, or smaller compounders everywhere.


Among the other key topics, development and major applications, but there are many others:

Flame retardancy

As engineering and specialty plastics can replace metals, glass and ceramics in very technical applications, in  automobile, electricity/electronics, aerospace and many industrial applications, the search for flame retardancy has become increasingly important in materials exposed to high-temperatures in ever diminishing space. Unfortunately, many of the additives used to impart flame retardancy to plastics, like the workhorses halogenated organics, now are under suspicion for environmental and health reasons. New regulations are phasing them out. Hence, many users of engineering plastics in demanding applications are switching to polymers that are inherently flame retardant, thus eliminating or reducing the need for flame-suppressing additives.

Polymers with inherent flame retardancy often have other advantages as well, such as exceptional strength, dimensional stability, and chemical and abrasion resistance. But these materials are usually more expensive than non-inherently flame retardant plastics, even when the cost of added flame retardants is included.

Need for higher temperatures

In the last twenty years and longer, the miniaturization of components, or reduced size, at all scale, from electronic to cars, has put the resistance to higher temperatures as an important requirement.

One of the major stories now starting is the forecast need for heat-dissipating plastics for the coming 42 volts in cars, instead of the classic 12 volts. Upgrading cars from a 12V to 42V battery means that automakers will have to contend with greater risk of fire, not only from the additional heat generated by a bigger service, but also because arcing at connection points will become more pronounced. A number of higher performance plastics will gain from this trend to 42 volts, like PPS, PEEK, polysulphones, LCP, polyphthalamides, high temperature polyamides, PBT and PET.

The number of electrically-operated systems in vehicles has risen rapidly over the past few years. At least 2500 watts per vehicle will soon be required to provide power for all the electrical equipment. The 12 and 14-volt systems currently in use will then be up against their limits. Moreover, if Internet access is to be available in future, together with air-conditioning, ABS braking, heatable rear windows, door-locking systems, electric seat adjustment and on-board computers, then the 42-volt systems currently available in prototype form will be an absolute necessity.

In terms of electrical properties and heat resistance, the components used for 42-volt electric circuits will need to satisfy more stringent demands than the 12 or 14-volt systems.

The automotive industry estimates the 42-volt systems to be definitively introduced in 2007. Individual car models will be equipped with these systems beforehand, however, and possibly even with two systems in parallel.

Fuel cells

This is another major development.

Ticona claims to have solved the problem of costs for fuel cells by replacing conventional materials with plastics. A prototype has been produced using components made from LCP and PPS. These materials cost about half as much to produce as conventional counterparts such as stainless steel.

The main requirement is that the core of the fuel cell consists of graphite-filled LCP and polybenzimidazole (PBI). Reformed hydrogen fuel cell technology is expected to come into the market in 2009-10. Markets in the automotive industry are predicted to take a little longer to develop, with the first commercial products expected to be on sale between 2015 and 2020.


Desktop computer demand has slowed down, and portables are the fastest growing. According to IDC, in 2005, total global sales of desktops will be 131 millions, up 6.5 %, versus portables, 58 million units, up 20 %.

Desktop units themselves are getting smaller. Designers are creating computers with fewer components, integrated electronics, smaller chassis and components. The smaller desktops require materials of higher temperature resistance. Current solutions include heat pipes, liquid cooling, heat sinks and dual cores. The same can be said about the increasingly popular multifunction peripherals, such as combination fax/copiers/scanners/printers, with annual growth rates above 10 %.

Audio visual

The fast growing CD sector opened the future for optical storage media with capacity in the terabyte range.

The next-generation media formats will develop in a yet uncertain competition. Equipment makers and replicators watch the trend to the future choices of the market in the very near future. This is what the specialists call the “battle of blues”, two techniques that use blue lasers to read data off DVD-style plastic discs.

HD-DVD is a high definition/high density-DVD discs that use blue lasers and are almost physically identical to current DVDs but hold greater data storage capacity than traditional DVDs. This format is supported by Toshiba and NEC.

Blu-ray Disc, BD is an optical-disc format using a blue-violet laser, the same size as CD and DVD, to store digital sound and video with high quality. Sony, Pioneer, Samsung Electronics, Matsushita Electric, Philips Electronics, Dell, Hewlett Packard and others back the Blu-ray Disc format.

The future royalties at stake are a major issue.

Blu-ray has many supporters, and HD-DVD has some significant advantages of its own: HD-DVD machines would be able to play older discs, and also would enable replicators to retool without major equipment changes for the HD capability. The revolutionary Blu-ray format would require mostly new equipment. Blu-ray is suitable for recordable, rewritable and ROM applications.

There is a possible market split, as HD-DVD might capture the prerecorded market, and Blu-ray may control the recorded market.

Whatever format dominates, or both, demand for PC, or maybe other competing plastics, like PMMA, or others, will create a large market, for years.

Light emitting diodes LED

A new area of growing interest is that of luminescent plastic parts, Smart Surface, Bayer, made of flexible PC film or electrically conductive polymers.

Household plastic light bulbs that promise long life and safety are now ready. Such bulbs, based on light-emitting diodes, are getting brighter and more flexible, opening new design possibilities for illumination. LED emits light when low-power electric current passes through them. They emit very little radiant heat, which means lighting producers can do away with fragile, high-temperature glass bulbs. Plastic bulbs and housings are more durable and allow myriad shapes. This represents a real revolution in lighting.

The bulbs rely on plastics technology to enhance the LED light. Plastic bulbs can be made by blow molding, extrusion and injection molding, often in China, of slightly enhanced commodity plastics, like ethylene/butene polymers and polypropylene. 

Rotomolded fuel tanks of PBT

This is a new development, where the standard PEHD car fuel tank could be replaced by CBT plastics, a derivative of PBT. Pilot-scale production recently started at the Cyclics/BASF site in Germany. CBT is an ultra low-viscosity material that polymerizes when heated. That means “it can be processed in a polyethylene like manner by rotomolding”.

More demanding technical developments in electricity

Technology demands across the E/E industries, such as thinner wall connectors and lead-free soldering, will create opportunity for new, higher performance engineering resins.

This has been true all since the history of plastics, but getting even more so.


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