Engineering plastics are plastic materials with better thermal and mechanical properties than commodity plastics such as polypropylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, and polyethylene. Engineering plastics are relatively expensive and therefore are produced in lower quantities and are used in low-volume applications such as mechanical parts. Engineering plastics are widely used as an option to ceramics, glass, wood, and metals as these materials can maintain dimensional and mechanical stability below 0°C and above 100°C.
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Several industries are focused on replacing conventional materials such as metals, glass, and alloys with engineering plastics. This is one of the major drivers propelling growth of the global engineering plastics market. According to the Association of Plastics Manufacturers, in 2015, around 10% of the plastic used worldwide is engineering plastics. Moreover, bio-based engineering plastics such as polycarbonates and polyamides are witnessing significant growth in demand as these help in reducing the carbon footprint.
Among product type, Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) segment accounted for the largest share of around 30.4% in the engineering plastics market in 2017. This is owing to a wide range of applications of UHMWPE in headlights, gear housing, electronic stability program control modules, door controllers or airbag connections, steering angle sensors, fiber optic cables, and others.
Increasing initiatives for reducing weight of vehicles and improvement in fuel efficiency backed by replacement of metal in automotive, electrical & electronics, and other industries are some of the key factors propelling growth of the engineering plastics market. Moreover, significant growth in various industries such as automotive, construction, electrical & electronics and others, in emerging economies has contributed to growth of the market.
However, fluctuating crude oil prices and environment regulation regarding CO2 emissions are expected to hamper growth of the global engineering plastics market. For instance, the World Bank Group estimates that recycling around 15 million tons of plastic wastes per year by 2030 will reduce CO2 emissions which would be equivalent to taking 15 million cars off the road.
Major players operating in the global engineering plastics market include, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, BASF SE, Solvay S.A., Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, Mitsubishi Engineering-Plastics Corporation, Covestro AG, Lanxess AG, Evonik Industries AG, Celanese Corporation, and others.
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