High-Performance Films: The U.S. Market

Published - Jul 2012| Analyst - Doug Smock| Code - PLS039F
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Report Highlights

The U.S. market for high-performance films was valued at $12.4 billion in 2011, and is projected to reach $14.9 billion in 2017, a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.7% from 2012 to 2017.


High-performance films can be defined in any of several ways: by 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 generally 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 because of their price.  Emphasis is on those markets and products where opportunities are the greatest. 

Therefore, the distinguishing characteristics of high-performance films are as follows:

  • Relatively expensive.
  • Thin gauge (compared to sheet).
  • Possess special performance characteristics.

High-performance films generally are 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 resin chemistries, including the following:

  • Polyesters.
  • Nylons.
  • Polyolefin-based specialties.
  • Polycarbonates (PCs).
  • Fluoropolymer.
  • Polyimides (PIs).
  • Cyclic olefin copolymers.
  • Acrylics.

Basic polyolefins, such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), are not included.  Also excluded are polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polystyrene.  Specialty polyolefin-based films are included, particularly when multilayer construction is involved.  They are ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH), ionomers, polyvinylidene chloride (PVdC) and 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).

Other resin chemistries are also covered, but in less detail because their roles in films are not as well developed.  They include polyethylene naphthalate (PEN), liquid crystal polymers (LCPs), polysulfones, polyetherimides (PEIs), polyetheretherketones (PEEKs) and benzocyclobutene (BCB).

The geographic scope of this report is the U.S. market.

Analyst Credentials

Douglas A. Smock was the chief editor of Plastics World Magazine from 1986 to 1994 at Cahners Publishing Co./Reed Business Information (RBI)..  He also served as a senior editor of Modern Plastics at McGraw-Hill Publishing Co., associate publisher and editorial director of Modern Mold & Tooling at the McGraw-Hill Publishing Co., chief editor of Purchasing Magazine at Reed Business Information and senior technical editor of Design News at UBM Canon.

At RBI-US, Smock also served as cochairman of the corporate editorial board.  He is the coauthor of Straight to the Bottom Line and On-Demand Supply Management, two leading books in the field of supply management.  Smock has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio).

Table of Contents & Pricing

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Published - Feb-2010| Analyst - Doug Smock| Code - PLS039E

Report Highlights

  • The total U.S. market for high-performance films was 11.3 billion in 2010. This market will increase at a 3.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to reach $13.5 billion in 2015.
  • Sales of in the high-performance films sector, which includes polyester, specialty polyolefins, nylon, PC, fluoropolymers, PMMA, PI, COCs, PEN, LCP, PSU, PEI, polyketones, and others,will grow from 1.3 billion in 2010 to $1.7 billion in 2015, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.5%.
  • The commodity films sector is worth $10 billion in 2010. This sector is expected to reach $11.8 billion in 2015, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.4%.
Published - Sep-2006| Analyst - Doug Smock| Code - PLS039D

Report Highlights

  • The U.S. consumption rate for high performance films was 12.8 billion pounds in 2005 and reached almost 14 billion pounds in 2006. Growing at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 2.9%, national consumption should cross 16 billion pounds by 2011.
  • Correspondingly, most high-performance resins had a very significant increase in value in the same time frame, but only a minor increase in average price, from $2.77 to $2.98. Part of the reason was the market devastation wreaked on much of the polyester-based film market due to the dramatic swing to digital formats described in this report.
  • There was a tilt toward higher-value, higher cost high-performance materials, a trend that will accelerate in the next five years. This is partly by design and partly a result of market forces. Major players, such as DuPont, made corporate decisions to sacrifice markets, particularly in polyesters that had become commoditized, in favor of market development in areas with greater potention, such as solar cells and structural glass laminates.
Published - Dec-2003| Analyst - Melvin Schlechter| Code - PLS039C

Report Highlights

  • The North American market for high-performance films is estimated to be 1.3 billion pounds in 2003 and is expected to rise at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 3.1% to 1.5 billion pounds in 2008.
  • Based on volume, polyesters, nylons, and polyolefin-based high-performance films account for almost 95% of the total
  • Lower volume, higher-priced films become account for about 26% of the value, but only 5% based of the volume.
  • In regard to applications, packaging (mostly foods), photographic/ reprographic, and magnetic media make up about 62% of total film volume.
  • Polyesters make up some 70% of the volume, but this percentage is slipping slightly.

Published - Jan-2000| Analyst - Charles Forman| Code - PLS039B

Report Highlights

  • The high-performance films market is made up of six major resin classes: polyesters (almost exclusively PET films), nylons, polyolefin-based films such as EVOH and PVdC, polycarbonates, fluoropolymers, and polyimides. Also, we discuss and forecast markets for an additional category of newer films, most of which are still developmental; we call this last group "definable other" performance films.
  • The total market in 1998 is estimated to be about 1.1 billion pounds, which is forecast to grow to almost 1.4 billion pounds by 2003. The value of this market is multibillion dollars; based on the prices of bulk resins it is about $1 billion in 1998 and more than $1.4 billion in 2003. Since films, whose prices vary widely even when fabricated from the same polymer, cost on average two to three times the price of the base resin, the actual dollar value of the performance films market is probably more like $3 billion today and up to $5 billion in 2003.
  • Polyesters, the dominant performance films, find use in most applications markets and are virtually alone in such end uses as magnetic media and photo/reprographic films. Their market of 825 million pounds in 1998 should grow to about 968 million pounds in 2003.
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