Tuesday, April 03, 2012: 11:42:56 PM

Engineering Plastics and the Indian Market

Andy Postlethwaite
Senior Vice President
Engineering Plastics Asia Pacific, BASF

There is considerable growth potential in the engineering plastics industry worldwide since untapped opportunities still exist for metal replacement in cars and trucks, household appliances as well as other applications. Growth in Asia will be driven by increasing usage of engineering plastics in segments like automotive, electrical & electronics (E&E) and construction, in particular. Engineering plastics demand is expected to rise globally, driven by the ongoing replacement of metal parts with high-performance plastics.

Engineering Plastics Market in Asia
Engineering plastics in India has witnessed fast growth, although the market size is not as large as some other Asian countries, and use of engineering plastics is still limited. In the next five years, the engineering plastics market in Asia is expected to grow at about 8% per annum. This growth is driven by the increasing usage of engineering plastics in different industry segments, especially automobiles, where engineering plastics are an integral part of complex, high-value, high-performance automotive systems and make a significant contribution to the performance, safety and comfort of modern automobiles.

In India, the Automotive Segment Dominates Usage of Engineering Plastics
It is hard to imagine the modern automobile industry without plastics. The percentage of components made of engineering plastics in practically all vehicle component categories is increasing continually: Plastics will be developed further as long as the trend towards lightweighting and metal substitution continues.

At the same time, appropriate simulation methods for designing virtual components must keep pace. Only such a combination will make it possible both, today and in the future to use thermoplastics in high-load applications that until a few years ago were reserved for steel and aluminum.

Indian auto majors are now realising the advantages of using engineering plastics in their vehicles. There is a big market growth for engineering plastics due to the strong need to reduce weight in the automotive industry to lower the fuel consumption and emission. The key is to follow the trend of virtual design for new cars. In order to reduce the development costs of a car, a virtual development allows OEMs to reduce the number of development steps and prototypes.

The automotive segment currently accounts for nearly half of the demand for PA/PBT compounds in India, with the electrical and electronics markets accounting for about a third. While this is in line with the demand pattern in other major markets of Asia, it is in contrast to China, a much larger market, where electrical and electronics has a 10% higher share than automotive.

Opportunities for Engineering Plastics
Engineering plastics such as Polyamide (PA) and Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT) are more widely used in the automotive and electrical industries due to their outstanding chemical and mechanical properties. These plastics are now finding application in the manufacture of home appliances, kitchenware and furniture, which are also showing good potential. The same reasons that make engineering plastics the material of choice in the automotive and electrical industries also make it ideal for designers and manufacturers of home appliances. These give the manufacturers a high degree of design freedom; more than that with metal, glass or wood. The shape of objects made from engineering plastics can be easily varied and numerous functions can be integrated. A myriad interesting design objects have been made in bold, clever or beautiful shapes. Several different colours and surface finishes can be achieved to meet the desired aesthetical and haptical needs.

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