CLEVELAND (Dec. 9)—Global demand for thermoplastic elastomers is forecast to increase 6.2 percent per year through 2009 to 3.1 million metric tons, as the materials increasingly replace natural and synthetic rubber, rigid thermoplastics and metals, according to a new report.
The gain in value will expand 7.4 percent per year over the same period, due to the increasing number of applications that require costlier types of TPEs and high energy prices, which will raise TPE production costs, according to market researchers Freedonia Group Inc.
In addition to their more traditional application as replacements for other materials, TPEs will gain new applications in which they are over-molded onto rigid plastic or metal components to enhance ergonomic or "soft-touch" features on a wide range of products, according to the 331-page report, "World Thermoplastic Elastomers."
Demand in 2004 was 2.3 million tons, up from 1.61 million tons in 1999, according to Freedonia data.
Growth prospects through 2009 will be strongest in developing countries. Most developing markets initially have focused on low-cost styrenic block copolymers because of their existing positions in styrene-butadiene and polybutadiene rubber, but markets such as China also are diversifying into compounded thermoplastic polyolefins and thermoplastic polyurethanes.