Transparent Plastics

Published - Nov 2001| Analyst - Melvin Schlechter| Code - PLS003F
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Report Highlights

  • The North American transparent-plastics market is estimated at more than 2.3 billion pounds in 2001.
  • This market is expected to climb at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 6% to more than 3.1 billion pounds by 2006.
  • Polycarbonates, acrylics, and polystyrenes accounted for almost 80% of total volume in 2001 and will increase their share to 81% by 2006.
  • Growth will be driven by electronic markets, especially CD and DVD markets, particularly rewritable CD versions that primarily use polycarbonates.



The objective of this study is to provide an analysis of transparent plastics in terms of current and forecasted markets. New developments in clear plastics have expanded usage in existing and new applications, and competition between polymers that exhibit optical clarity will be covered. The competitive scenario between glass and clear plastics will also be described, as well as a detailed discussion on the competition between transparent plastics. Important suppliers of clear plastics, their product lines, and other important factors that impact the market will also be covered.


The search is continuing for special markets by most plastics suppliers, somewhat irrespective of potential volume. Selection criteria focus on growing specialty markets with opportunities for respectable profits, even though sales volumes may not be large by commodity-resin standards.

Transparent plastics is a niche market that encompasses many types of polymers. In addition to acrylics and polycarbonates, many styrene-based materials, as well as commodity and specialty polymers, have clear grades. Opportunities in several application areas need reappraising to assess their potentials for transparent or clear plastics, especially in the electronic, medical, and automotive sectors.


The term "transparent" or "clear" is a subjective one. Most relate clarity of plastics to percent of light transmission as defined by ASTM test D-1003. Light transmission percentages above 85% usually are accepted as transparent. Other related ASTM tests are D-523 and D-542.

Clear plastics are commercially available in many forms, such as injection molded, extruded, blow molded, and thermoformed. A great number of extruded products are converted to films, and the numerous uses for these films (commodity, specialty, coextruded, plastic food, medical packaging, etc.) could be the subject of its own, separate report.

Blow-molded plastics are hollow, and most are converted to bottles or containers, while thermoformed plastics are similar to injection-molded plastics, except that they are usually thinner and require less-expensive equipment and capital outlay.

This report will cover rigid, clear, nonpackaging plastic parts, which include injection molded, nonfilm extrusion, and thermoforming (including cast sheet). The major plastic products excluded from this report will be flexible and hollow materials (including films).


A comprehensive review was undertaken of literature relating to clear polymers, their applications and technology, and significant new developments. Included in the review were supplier trade literature, texts, and monographs. Following the collection and analysis of this information, unresolved issues were discussed with producers, suppliers, and fabricators of transparent plastics.

The terms "transparent" and "clear" are used interchangeably. The acronyms PS, PP, and PC are often used to denote polystyrene, polypropylene, and polycarbonate, respectively.

Methylmethacrylate and MMA are also used interchangeably, as are polymethyl-methacrylate and PMMA. Methylmethacrylate polymers are also synonymous with PMMA.

All growth rates (AAGR%) refer to the 2001 to 2006 time frame.

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