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High-Performance Films: Global Markets

High-Performance Films: Global Markets

  • March 2017
  • 175 pages
  • ID: 2584396
  • Format: PDF


Table of Contents

Use this report to:
- Analyze industry structure and competitiveness and profiling important players in the global high-performance films market.
- Evaluate the forecasting market of high-performance films by region such as Asia, China, the U.S., Europe and others.
- Identify applications of high-performance film in packaging, electrical/electronics, automotive, building/construction, medical and photovoltaic.

- The global high-performance films market should reach $16.2 billion by 2021 from $11.2 billion in 2016 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.7%, from 2016 to 2021.
- The polyesters market should reach $10.4 billion by 2021 from $7.5 billion in 2016 at a CAGR of 6.7%, from 2016 to 2021.
- The bioplastics market should reach $1.2 billion by 2021 from $431 million in 2016 at a CAGR of 23.7%, from 2016 to 2021.

Plastics are widely used in both developed and developing countries. The U.S. had been the world’s largest producer and user of plastics for decades until China surpassed it in recent years. In 2016, China’s average plastics consumption reached 59 kg per capita (130.1 pounds per person).

While China will have huge potential for the growth in both consumption and production, the U.S. remains competitive. Abundant and cheap natural gas from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of tight gas shales will provide the opportunity for large petrochemical and polymer companies to re-building their U.S. plants. Natural gas, and the hydrocarbons removed from it, provides a feedstock for plastics, fertilizers, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, waste treatment, food processing, fueling industrial boilers and more.

In Europe, Asia and other regions, plastics production and consumption also continue to grow.

The main focus of this report is high-performance plastic films. The report can be taken as the global edition of another BCC Research report, High-Performance Films: The U.S. Market (PLS039G), written by Dr. J. Charles Forman. This report uses the same definitions for film and high-performance film as in PLS039G.

Plastic film is one of the most important applications in this mature but still growing industry. Film is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as a:
- Thin skin or membrane.
- Thin, opaque, abnormal coating on the cornea of the eye.
- Thin covering or coating: a film of dust on the piano.
- Thin, flexible, transparent sheet, as of plastic, used in wrapping or packaging.
a. Thin sheet or strip of flexible material, such as a cellulose derivative or a thermoplastic resin, coated with a photosensitive emulsion and used to make photographic negatives or transparencies.
- Thin sheet or strip of developed photographic negatives or transparencies.
a. Movie, especially one recorded on film.
- Presentation of such a work.
- Long, narrative movie.
- Movies collectively, especially when considered as an art form.

The firms covered in this report are included in definitions 4, 5.a, and 5.b. Although this definition comes from the most recent edition of this dictionary, the inclusion of “cellulose derivative” is now virtually obsolete since cellulose has long been replaced by synthetic polymers.

In the plastics industry, there is a difference between film and sheet. The definitions between them are not absolute, however, and engineers define films and sheets in different ways. In general, films are the thinner form of plastic extrusions up to approximately 0.01 inches (0.25 mm or 10 mils). Above this thickness, a film of most materials usually becomes a sheet. However, as film technology has improved the flexibility of films, some markets have different definitions and now thicknesses up to
0.40 inches (400 mils) may be defined as film by some engineers.

As discussed in this report, while some greater thicknesses are now considered film instead of sheet, minimum film thicknesses are also trending thinner toward micro thicknesses as new technologies emerge. Many high-temperature films are in the range of 0.001 inches to 0.010 inches (1 to 10 mils). At these thicknesses, a little film resin can go a long way.

A note on thickness units: In film technology, both English and metric units are commonly used. In addition, in the U.S., film thickness is commonly expressed in gauge. In film technology, gauge is a measurement of film thickness, where one gauge unit equals 0.01 mil or about 0.25 microns. Perhaps the easiest way to remember the relationship between these units is that 100-gauge film is 1 mil or 25 microns thick. In this report, film gauge will be discussed in the manner standard in the industry under discussion.

High-performance thermoplastic (TP) films, the subject of this study, are playing an increasingly important role as engineers design products in increasingly demanding environments and demand higher performance from the products they use. Historically, the most important applications for these films were for photographic and reprographic applications, both of which are disappearing from use as digital formats take over these businesses. Fortunately, new applications are constantly being developed to replace those lost to technology. These films may someday make possible safer and lighter packaging, economically viable electric vehicles, better liquid crystal displays (LCDs), as well as economically viable photovoltaic (PV) products for the solar power industry.

Major polymer and film producing companies are important technology drivers and invest significant capital in R&D to improve their technologies. Innovations were initially driven by polymer chemistry, but increasingly, they are being driven by improved fabrication and treatment of films. One example is the complex development of specialty polyolefin films as membrane separators for lithium-ion batteries.

- Goals and objectives of this study include:
- Identifying trends affecting high-performance films and their major end-use application markets. High-performance films are made of resins such as polyesters, polyolefin-based film resins, polyamides (nylons), polycarbonates, bioplastics, fluoropolymers, PMMA-type acrylics, polyimides, cyclic olefin copolymers (COCs), polyethylene naphthalate (PEN), liquid crystal polymers (LCPs), polysulfones and polyetherimides. Their applications include packaging, electrical/electronics, automotive, building/construction, medical and photovoltaic.
- Analyzing and forecasting markets for high-performance films by resin types.
- Analyzing and forecasting markets by major application types, including packaging, electrical/electronics, automotive and photovoltaic.
- Analyzing and forecasting markets by major regions. These regions include Asia, China, the U.S., Europe and others.
- Analyzing industry structure and competitiveness and profiling important players in the global high-performance films market.

High-performance plastic films have become a large and important niche market within the immense plastic films industry. High-performance films are specialty products that sell at premium prices because they do jobs that commodity films cannot do. Their use is driven by the specific applications for which they are targeted.

Although the volumes of high-performance films are small when compared to those of commodity films, the dollar value of this market is disproportionately high. High-performance films, since they are specialty items, can command prices several times higher than commodity films.

Markets for high-performance films offer opportunities to create value and move discussions to topics beyond purchase prices. Technology advances should help drive developments in major areas, including packaging, the largest end-use market. New and better barrier film structures made with high-performance films will extend product shelf life and improve appearance.

Developments in this industry could have significant effects on our economy and help mitigate global warming - one of the most serious environmental concerns - by improving the performance of solar cells and fuel cells.

Similar work is going on in the automotive arena. The ability of engineers to meet design goals for products such as solar cells or batteries that power cars will in part depend on developments in high-quality performance films.

High-performance markets are becoming increasingly attractive to major chemical companies with a global reach. Many foreign-owned firms are active in the U.S. market, and industry leaders have worldwide marketing and manufacturing facilities, often in joint ventures with local companies. The rise of China as a manufacturing behemoth has led to the formation of many joint ventures between China and other countries.

Because of the size and diversity of the materials and products used in high-performance plastic films, this report should be of interest to a wide group of both organizations and individuals. This includes personnel involved in the development, design, manufacture, sale and use of these films, as well as government officials and the general public.

This report should be of particular value to technical and business personnel in the following areas:
- Specifying engineers and procurement commodity managers for end-user companies in a wide range of industries from food packaging to aerospace to photovoltaic.
- Marketing and management personnel for companies that produce, market and sell high-performance plastic films.
- Companies involved in the design and construction of process plants that manufacture both basic film resins and high-performance plastic films.
- Companies that supply, or seek to supply, equipment and services to high-performance plastic films companies.
- Financial institutions that supply money for such facilities and systems, including banks, merchant bankers, venture capitalists and others.
- Investors in both equity and fixed-income markets. The future of the specialty films business depends on the value of publicly traded stocks of companies such as 3M and DuPont.
- Government personnel at all levels, including federal, state and local authorities, who are responsible for public health and safety. The report also should be of interest to military scientists studying new packaging and equipment.


High-performance films can be defined in any of several ways: volume, price, performance, end-use markets, resin types, or a combination of two or more of these characteristics.

For this study, high-performance films are defined as thin-gauge, mostly extruded or solution cast polymer sheets that meet at least one of the following criteria: pricing above commodity film levels, continuous-use temperature above commodity plastics, and end-uses requiring technical capability and thickness at or below 30 mils. These are films that are used primarily for their performance characteristics, not their price with emphasis on the markets and products with the greatest potential for growth.

Therefore, the distinguishing characteristics of high-performance films are as follows:
- Relatively expensive.
- Thin gauge (compared to sheet).
- Special performance characteristics.
- Significant applications other than packaging.

High-performance films are generally fabricated (or converted) in relatively small volumes (at least compared to commodity films). Much of their value is created after the film is extruded.

The focal point is on high-performance resins and their chemistries, including the following:
- Polyesters, primarily PET. We use PET interchangeably with “polyester” throughout this report.
- Polyolefin-based specialty film resins.
- Polyamides (Nylons).
- Polycarbonates (PCs).
- Bioplastics, a newer group of plastics.
- Fluoropolymers.
- Acrylic films based on PMMA chemistry.
- Polyimides (PIs).
- Cyclic olefin copolymers (COCs).
- Polyethylene naphthalate (PEN).
- Liquid crystal polymers (LCPs).
- Polysulfones.
- Polyetherimides.

Basic polyolefins, such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), are not included in our scope since they are true commodities used in commodity films applications such as grocery and garbage bags. Also excluded are other commodity resins like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polystyrene. Specialty polyolefin-based films are included, particularly when multilayer construction is involved. These specialty films are ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH), ionomers, polyvinylidene chloride (PVdC), polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) and polymethyl pentene (PMP).

Fluoropolymer films are an important of this report. They include the following:
- Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).
- Polyvinyl fluoride (PVF).
- Fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP).
- Polychlorotrifluoroethylene (PCTFE).
- Polyvinylidene fluoride (PVdF).
- Perfluoroalkoxy (PFA).
- Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE).
- Ethylene chlorotrifluoroethylene (ECTFE).

The geographic scope of this report is the global market, including the U.S., Europe, China, Asia and others regions.

Market estimates are by resin volumes in millions of pounds rounded to the nearest million. We round to millions since, with so many similar products and applications, market estimates are not precise beyond millions of pounds, if that. Many applications markets for particular films are less than a million pounds, and we round estimated volumes greater than a half-million up to 1 million. Also, compound annual growth rates (CAGRs) for table entries with small volumes may not match the 2016 and 2021 volumes because of rounding. Estimated values used are based on manufacturers’ total revenues.

Both primary and secondary research sources were used in preparing this study. Estimates of current market demand are made for 2015 and are projected over the next five years from 2016 through 2021. Projections are made in terms of constant U.S. dollars (2015), unadjusted for inflation. Growth is presented in terms of a compound average annual growth rate (CAGR).

Information sources include managers and engineers, literature and online materials, including leading trade journals, technical papers, company literature, government information and pertinent trade associations. The information in the company profiles was primarily obtained from the companies themselves, especially the larger publicly owned firms. Other sources included directories, articles and websites.

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