ENGINEERING AND PERFORMANCE
PLASTICS, 2005-2015, RAPRA, VIENNA 2005
Françoise Pardos, Pardos Marketing, February 2006
for engineering plastics, molded parts, films and sheet
Traditionally, the dominant process for engineering plastics has
been, and still is, injection molding, with few
exceptions, like films for PA, PET and PE, sheet for PC and PMMA.
Now, with growth and diversification, the other processes, particularly
sheet and films, also pipes, are fast growing
High-performance films represent a niche market,
accounting for about 10% of all commercial plastic films by volume.
Compared to commodity plastics films, high-performance films feature
greater tensile and impact strength, greater heat and moisture resistance,
and improved gas barrier properties. Some also display special electrical
or electronic properties.
With thicknesses generally less than 0.25 mm, high-performance films
are made in relatively small quantities for specialized applications
in packaging, mostly for food, electronics, photography, magnetic
media, automotive, aerospace, signs and displays.
About 95% of high-performance films are made of polyesters, nylons
and polyolefins. The rest are made of such materials as polycarbonates,
fluoropolymers, polyimides, PEEK, PI, and other engineering resins.
Coating high-performance films with other polymers can improve their
abrasion resistance, and their barrier, adhesion and antistatic properties.
The films can also be metallized to alter their electrical characteristics
or reduce their moisture permeability. The films may be used alone
or as layers in laminated or coextruded structures.
High-performance fluoropolymer films include PTFE,
PVF, PVDF, ETFE, and PCTFE. As a class, fluoropolymer films combine
excellent chemical resistance and dielectric properties with heat
resistance and moisture impermeability.
Fluoropolymer films are used in the chemical industry to line tanks
and in the electronics industry in circuit board laminates and wire
insulation. In plastics processing, fluoropolymer films perform well
as release agents in the fabrication of industrial composites. Fluoropolymers
are used in the packaging of medical and pharmaceutical products
and as a barrier for protecting sensitive electronics, such as those
found in sonar buoys.
Polycarbonate film is noted for its high clarity,
heat resistance and dimensional stability. Its many applications
include reverse screen printing, pressure sensitive nameplates and
membrane switch panels.
The optical PC film business is booming for large-sized liquid crystal
displays, LCD, and TV sets. Optical PC films will also be used for
the overlay for Blue-ray optical storage discs.
Various electronic devices, including timers and filters, employ
wound polycarbonate film capacitors, which have a very wide temperature
range. In signs and other outdoor graphics applications, polycarbonate
films offer exceptional resistance to moisture and sunlight.
Another use of polycarbonate film is for in-mold labels for cell
phones and automobile components. Such labels are easy to customize
to provide product differentiation.
Polyimide films, best known for their ability to
withstand heat, retain their dielectric properties at temperatures
as high as 240° C.
The films can be used to insulate the windings of large coils for
motors. They allow wave soldering of flexible circuits without distortion.
The films are also used in combination with inorganic insulating
tapes to impart flame resistance to high-performance cables.
PEEK films display resistance to high temperatures,
chemicals, solvents, wear, hydrolysis, fire and smoke. Usage temperatures
for the films can be as high as 260° C. They have similar applications
to polyimide films.
Polyetherimide, PEI, films have high heat resistance,
inherent flame resistance, high dielectric strength, exceptional
mechanical properties and dimensional stability. Applications of
these products include flexible circuits, high-temperature labels,
electrical insulation, automotive sensors, IC sockets and hot-melt
Polyvinyl butyral, PVB, are used as an interlayer
to provide impact resistance to glass laminates, in car glazing and
in windows. Hurricane-resistant glazing is a prime outlet for these
Other high-performance films include ethylene vinyl
alcohol, EVOH, used to impart barrier properties
to food and beverage packaging, and polyvinyl alcohol, PVOH,
employed in spiral wound tubes, coated paper and linerboard, and
specialty water-soluble films. Ionomers are transparent,
durable thermoplastics, widely used as heat-seal layers in composite
flexible food packaging films.
Sheet and thermoforming
Flat products, sheet, have long been particularly important for
polycarbonate, whether solid, thin wall or corrugated.
Now, GE Plastics has developed a range of new resins designed to
encourage manufacturers of large parts to consider thermoforming
as an option. Until now such manufacturers have preferred injection
molding. GE expects to see rapid growth on the heavy-gauge thermoforming
market over the next five years. The new resins for thermoforming
include Geloy ASA resin with better weathering properties, Noryl
PPX blend with superior surface finish, high gloss Lexan SLX for
extreme temperatures, Lexan film for in-mold use. According to GE
Plastics, these products are suitable for construction, automobile
and marine applications. Thermoforming has cost advantages over injection
molding, and thermoformed parts do not need painting. The resins
will have to compete with acrylics which are already used in the
paint-free large parts sector
One of the most promising future markets for PC sheet products is
automotive glazing. Figures are staggering when applied to the total
of cars produced ten years from now.
Solar panels should also really take off, and require sheet of high
performances, another large market to come.
Long fiber composites
One of the fastest growing plastic industry sectors is long-fiber
reinforced thermoplastics, LFT, both with better grades of commodity
plastics, and engineering plastics.
Automotive applications account for over 95% of worldwide demand
for LFT. The European long-fiber reinforced thermoplastic market
is expanding the fastest in comparison with other markets, largely
due to the automotive industry, where new applications include body
parts, door panels and front-end modules.
And, finally, there is the nano story, and many others. But the
other speakers will develop these exciting technical aspects definitely
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