Polycarbonate (PC) is more present in everyone’s life than they realize. This transparent material is an amorphous thermoplastic that is considered to be quite versatile. Polycarbonate is useful in a range of applications including luggage, silicone casting, vehicle headlights, machinery guards, phone cases, small vehicle windshields, and eyewear. Polycarbonate is used in LED light pipes, diffusers, fountain pens, and many more.
Polycarbonate is durable and flexible too. Polycarbonate can maintain it’s rigidity across a wide range of temperatures as low as -20 degrees and as high as 140 degrees.
Moreover, the fewer toxicity levels= in PC when compared to other plastics in the market make it one of the top used plastics. It is easy to recycle polycarbonate too which adds to its versatility.
The polycarbonate manufacturing process depends on the manufacturer. Earlier, phosgene was reacted with phenol to produce DPC or diphenyl carbonate. Then, the DPC reacted with BPA. This resulted in polymer and liberate phenol. This was used for some time but due to inefficiencies, the process changed. The method was called the interfacial polymerization process. But due to rising environmental concerns, many manufacturers switched to using non-phosgene paths to produce polycarbonate. This new method is called the melt process. In it, polymerization occurs in two states without the use of solvents in the manufacturing process.
The global polycarbonate market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3.4% by 2022. The market value of the PC market is expected to be $14.83 billion according to procurement intelligence experts, Beroe. In 2016, the global capacity was 4.95 MMT while the consumption of PCs globally was 4.02 MMT.
The largest markets for polycarbonate are Asia, the EU, and North America. Asia accounts for 54% of the market share, the EU accounts for 25% of the market share, and North America accounts for 16% of the market share. Other countries account for the rest of the 5% market share of the polycarbonate market.
The top global suppliers are Teijin, Covestro, Mitsubishi, SABIC, and Trinseo. The supplier power of North America is high while the buyer power of North America is low. The EU has a medium supplier and buyer power. Asia has a low supplier power while it has a medium buyer power. At present, there is more supply of polycarbonate than demand. However, Beroe predicts that the polycarbonate market demand will increase in the future which will narrow the gap between supply and demand. In addition, the capacity additions are likely not going to take place which will help balance demand and supply. This absence of capacities can lead to an increase in operating costs.
The polycarbonate industry can add capacities in some regions due to an expected demand increase in the future. For example, China added polycarbonate capacity additions of 0.27 MMT which helped it to import less and impact the overall Asian market. Plants in the US shut down which led to the import levels and export levels to remain the same in the past.
The top suppliers in the world are Thailand, South Korea, and the US. These had trade excesses in the past of 0.40 MMT, 0.50 MMT, and 0.33 MMT respectively. However the regions add or decrease production depends on how much they import, costs, and other factors.
There are many polycarbonate market trends. One of them is using polycarbonate blends with other polymers such as thermoformed PC, ABS, and polyester. This is going to increase the demand for polycarbonate in the future and is expected to be one of the driving forces. Beroe predicts that CPG applications are going to be one of the biggest demand drivers that will fuel the market growth of polycarbonate globally. The CPG applications will have a demand for polycarbonate that will grow at a CAGR of 4% until 2022. In terms of value, the demand will be 0.34 MMT. The other demand drivers include automotive applications that use polycarbonate.
Applications of Polycarbonate
- Compact Storage
- ATM Machines
- Mobile phones
- Baby drinking bottles
- Police Riot gear
Electrical and electronic applications are going to drive the demand for the PC market too according to Beroe’s report. Asia is one of the markets in which the PC demand growth is going to be extremely high for electronic applications. For example, these regions have a high demand for smart electronic products and this will help propel the PC market towards growth.
The demand for PC in consumer goods’ use is going to be stable although it is highly unlikely to lessen in the future. There are many opportunities through which the demand in the polycarbonate market can improve such as in the medical sector. The use of service robots and sensors is likely to increase in the future in this market which will help increase the demand further for the PC market.