Polymeric Flexible Hose & Tubing

Published - Jul 2008| Analyst - Charles Forman| Code - PLS012E
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Report Highlights

  • The U.S. market for materials used in polymeric flexible hose and tubing is expected to increase from 804.0 million pounds in 2007 to an estimated 869.0 million pounds by the end of 2012, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.6%.
  • Non-elastomeric thermoplastic resins have the largest share of the materials market at 457.0 million pounds in 2007 and an estimated 496.0 million pounds in 2012, a CAGR of 1.6%.
  • The second largest material by volume is thermosetting elastomers. 279.0 million pounds were used in 2007, with an expected increase to 298.0 million pounds in 2012, a CAGR of 1.3%.


Flexible hose and tubing are old and established products, and their manufacture and sale has become a moderately large and quite broad-based sector of the United States economy. This study covers flexible hose/tubing made from polymeric materials, as contrasted with rigid metal tubing (e.g., aluminum and copper tubing for automobiles and refrigerators) that is really a subset of the piping industry. (Rigid pipe and tubing is covered at length in a companion BCC Research report, The Competitive Pipe Industry.)  
The broad base of the U.S. hose and tubing industry is illustrated both by the many different materials, both elastomeric and non-elastomeric, that are used to make hose and tubing, and also by the many different markets that are served by these materials and products. The terms tube and tubing are also different from pipe and piping. All pipes are tubes; however, because rigid tubing is smaller in diameter and usually quite thin, it is differentiated from piping. We also differentiate between flexible hose and tubing. A tube is usually defined as a long cylindrical body with a hollow center that is used to convey fluids, and a hose is generally considered to be a flexible tube. However, in flexible products we differentiate hose and tubing by also considering tubing to be a simpler product constructed from a single material, while hose is a more complex structure that usually consists of three layers: the tube itself at the center, some type of external reinforcement, and a protective covering material of some type.
This study is an update of a 2004 BCC Research study of flexible hose and tubing materials and their markets, in which we bring up to date the state of the industry and BCC Research’s estimates and forecasts for U.S. markets for base year 2007 and forecast year 2012. The U.S. hose and tubing industry is generally considered to be a mature one, but that does not tell the whole story. The changing nature and general decline in the U.S. manufacturing sector has increased competition among supplier companies and materials of hose and tubing construction and caused several important changes in this industry in recent years; we review them here and forecast their effects on the industry. However, we found in this update that there were fewer really new developments in the last 4 years or so, compared to years past. Continual improvements yes, but no real new materials to revolutionize the industry.
However, even with this general state of maturity in this industry, some major changes are adding an interesting dynamic to what is essentially a stable market that grows on average at about the rate of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The first of these changes has been the development of newer hose and tubing materials that compete with older more established synthetic resins and elastomers. The most important of these are thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs), products that no longer can be considered to be “new” but which still are being developed and competing. Important hose and tubing TPEs include thermoplastic olefins (TPOs) and alloys (TPVs) produced with metallocene/single site and other new catalyst systems, as well as the older TPEs such as thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs) and styrene block copolymers. As thermoplastics they are easier to process than older thermosets.
Next, engine changes are constantly being made in the very important automotive under-the-hood hose and tubing category. Newer overhead cam four-valve engines tend to run hotter than older push rod designs, and several of the most common elastomers, especially nitrile rubber, cannot be used at the temperatures now occurring under the hood; other materials must be substituted.
Another other big change is in motor gasoline formulations, with lowered aromatics content and increasing use of oxygenates as octane enhancers and anti-pollution additives. Legislation calls for addition of oxygenates in motor fuel, with the phase-out of MTBE and its substitution by ethanol (and with increasing quantities of ethanol mandated to meet Congressional mandates). Fuel lines must not only withstand new fuels and additives but also cannot allow them to permeate through the hose or tube wall into the atmosphere. Ethanol, which is water soluble, is now getting a major test in the national auto fleet, and car makers are learning what effects it has on hoses (and engine performance). To date it has been found that ethanol has little effect on automotive fuel lines, at least at the current 10% inclusion rate.
Another major automotive industry change was that in auto air conditioner refrigerant in the mid-1990s from CFC-12 (Freon-12) to HFC-134a necessitated changes in hose and tubing used; this change was made successfully since HCF-134a operates under similar conditions to CFC-12 and major compressor and other component redesigns were not requires. Now there is a push by global warming activists to also ban HFCs, which do not deplete the ozone layer but which do increase global warming. The European Union is planning to ban HFC-134a, and car makers and producers of auto air conditioners are scrambling to find another replacement. There are no simple replacements available today, and many are promoting either blends with hydrocarbons (which are at least somewhat flammable) or carbon dioxide; the latter requires significantly higher system pressures than current units and would require a complete redesign and consideration of materials used.
Competition between synthetic elastomers and natural rubber is constant and is based on price for many applications. At the time of the last update of this report in 2004 natural rubber had become quite cheap, mostly from poor economic conditions in rubber producing countries that have caused them to lower prices. This caused some synthetic elastomer producers to cut back production and even close plants because of the increased competition from natural rubber. However, more recent events have raised the price of natural rubber above that of most of its competing synthetics for tires and other large markets, and synthetic rubbers are again replacing natural rubber. The recent fall in the U.S. dollar (which affects export and import markets) also affects the U.S. producers, for a falling dollar makes imports of natural rubber more expensive.
We have subdivided the market into four main sectors:
  • Automotive
  • Hydraulics
  • Industrial
  • Consumer/healthcare
Automotive, hydraulic, and many industrial products are primarily hose, while tubing is primarily medical with some industrial tubing. There are many subcategories in each segment, as can be seen from the length and complexity of the Table of Contents. Most of these market segments follow the ups and downs of the national economy, with the exception of tubing for healthcare applications that have been growing at a faster rate as healthcare spending consistently outpaces GDP. With the onset of managed care and healthcare cost controls, the growth of medical tubing came down in the 1990s, but has not yet come down to GDP rates.
It is the goal of this report to give the reader a comprehensive update on the state of the U.S. flexible hose and tubing industry and the polymeric materials from which such products are made, and where BCC Research believes it is headed for the next 5 years, with market predictions and forecasts to year 2012.
Flexible hose and tubing is made from many different polymeric materials, both elastomeric and non-elastomeric (that is, hoses and tubes that may or may not stretch) both natural (which means natural rubber in this case) and synthetic. Among the synthetics we have both thermoplastic and thermosetting polymers. Because of this diversity of materials we place major emphasis in this report on these materials, their properties, manufacture, and markets.
Our objectives include: 
  •  To describe the flexible hose and tubing industry, its importance to the functioning and quality of life, and its future prospects. We include a brief historical perspective on the materials and the industry. 
  • To describe many different types of hose and tubing products, the polymeric materials from which they are made, and their major end-use markets in the United States. We describe, discuss, and estimate markets for major types of hose and tubing by type of polymer used and by several of the important major applications. 
  • To analyze industry production and shipments in base year 2007 and estimate growth to 2012 for several of the major hose and tubing materials and applications markets. 
  • To describe manufacturing methods used both to manufacture the polymeric raw materials and to fabricate hose and tubing structures. 
  • To identify and profile some of the major suppliers of materials and products for the hose and tubing industry.
  • To describe hose and tubing technology and trends. This includes both polymer and hose and tubing production technology. 
  • To note and discuss some of the major dynamics in the industry, including industry concentration, inter-material competition, and some international effects on the U.S. industry, primarily from activities of foreign firms. 
  • To discuss some environmental and regulatory issues and factors that affect the hose and tubing industry, including the many standards that affect manufacture and quality.
This study focuses primarily in the United States but also, as noted above in our objectives, has some international observations, given the global nature or business and trade these days, when no nation or region can operate without consideration of the rest of the world. However, most of the products covered are American in nature and production.
The flexible hose and tubing industry, despite its maturity and modest overall growth rate, in actuality continues to be a dynamic industry, despite the rather staid general impression of garden hose, under-the-hood automotive hose, and other everyday products. Several important changes have occurred in this industry in recent years, and they continue; in fact, their pace will probably increase with new regulatory and environmental rules and requirements in such important sectors as automotive and industrial hose and tubing. 
But these changes are for the most part coming in an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary, way. Only a rather sudden major change can cause revolutionary change. Examples of such changes are the banning of one auto air conditioner refrigerant and the substitution of another, and major changes in motor fuels, such as the mandating of great increases in ethanol content.
Both newer and older materials compete for places in the hose and tubing market. The major competitive factors in the market are those between materials and technologies. Inter-material competition is a way of life in technologically advancing society, and hose and tubing markets are no exception. There is strong competition and significant overcapacity in several sectors, and new technologies and products continue to also strive for market share. For example, thermoplastic elastomers have gained markets at the expense of older traditional thermosets. Higher-performance thermoplastics like fluoropolymers and nylons are finding new uses where their properties justify their cost.
BCC Research has performed and updated this study to provide a comprehensive and updated reference for those interested and/or involved in the flexible hose and tubing industry, including those that serve and benefit from this industry. This is a wide and varied group of personnel in the materials, chemical, polymer, mechanical equipment, and parts suppliers; the latter both for original equipment manufacture (OEM) and for those involved in the important maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) aftermarket business. We have sorted through, organized, and condensed information from a large amount of literature and other reference materials to compile this report.
Because of the size and diversity of flexible hose and tubing materials, products, and markets, this report should be of interest to a wide group of organizations and individuals, people who are involved in the development, design, manufacture, sale, and use of hose and tubing and materials, as well as politicians of all stripes and the general public. BCC Research believes that this report will be of value to technical and business personnel in the following areas, among others:
  • Marketing and management personnel in companies which produce, market, and sell all types of hose and tubing, as well as those involved in installing equipment and parts, components, maintenance materials, and chemicals for cleaning and other uses. 
  • Companies which supply, or want to supply, equipment and services to hose and tubing materials and equipment supply companies. 
  • Financial institutions which supply money for such facilities and systems, including banks, merchant bankers, venture capitalists, and others. 
  • Personnel in end-user companies, communities, and industries which purchase and use hose and tubing. This includes some huge industries such as the automotive and healthcare industries.  
  • Personnel in government and standards-writing organizations. Local, state, and federal officials are all involved in writing and enforcing standards to ensure and protect public health and safety and the environment. Since much hose and tubing is used to convey flammable, hazardous, toxic, or otherwise potentially dangerous fluids, the public must be assured that it is made and used in a proper and safe manner.
This BCC Research study covers in depth many of the most important economic, technological, political, regulatory, and environmental considerations in U.S. markets for materials used in manufacture of flexible hose and tubing, as well as those for the resulting hose and tubing products.
Such products are made from several different polymers, natural and synthetic, both elastomeric and non-elastomeric, to produce a number of different types of hose and tubing. We focus on thermosetting elastomers, both natural and synthetic rubbers, and on thermoplastic hose and tubing materials; the latter group includes both plastic resins and thermoplastic elastomers.
Our study includes older and newer key technologies, the markets, and key player companies which make up the U.S. hose and tubing industry in all its ramifications. This is primarily a study of activities and markets in the United States, but because of the global nature of most industries these days, it touches on some noteworthy international activities. These are primarily those which can have an impact on the U.S. business and markets, primarily the activities of foreign-based companies in U.S. markets.
Demand data are estimated for base year 2007 and forecast for 5 years to 2012. Markets are all analyzed and projected in volumes in pounds of materials used. Five year growth rates are all compounded (signified as compounded annual growth rates or CAGRs). All final market figures are rounded to the nearest million pounds. For breakdown markets in which some individual material usages are small, we estimate to the nearest tenth of a million. Because of this rounding, some growth rates may not agree exactly with figures in the market tables, especially for very small markets of less than a million pounds.
This report is segmented into 10 sections, of which this is the first.
SCOPE of report (Continued)
The summary is next and encapsulates our findings and conclusions, including a summary market table. It is the place where busy executives can find the major findings of the study in summary format.
Next is an overview to the flexible hose and tubing industry. We start with some historical background and perspective on hose and tubing and define and describe the major markets for hose and tubing in the United States.
Next is the first of our market analysis sections, this one devoted to market analysis by physical volume in pounds by hose and tubing material. 
The next section looks at hose and tubing markets by some of the most important applications. These include automotive, hydraulic, industrial, and consumer markets; the latter includes the important healthcare tubing market. We break out several important types of hose and tubing for expanded discussion and analysis.
Next is a section devoted to hose and tubing technology, with special emphasis on manufacture of hose and tubing materials and products. We cover the basic technologies of rubber and polymer manufacture as well as hose and tubing fabrication and process economics. We also include a discussion of some technical innovations in hose and tubing.
Next we look at the structure and some competitive factors and trends in the U.S. flexible hose and tubing industry. We discuss competition among materials and note some international aspects that affect the U.S. industry.
The next section is devoted to a discussion of regulatory, environmental, and public issues which affect the hose and tubing industry. These include (1) important standards for hose and tubing manufacture which are designed to protect the public, (2) regulatory issues, and (3) some ongoing environmental issues.
The final narrative section is devoted to information about some of the most important major suppliers to this large industry, with profiles of these suppliers.
We end with a glossary of some important terms, abbreviations, acronyms, etc. used in the hose and tubing industry and related technologies.
Some topics and materials covered in the text of this report are not included in our market forecast tables. We include these topics and materials for completeness; however, they are either really outside the scope of this study (such as discussion of international activities and markets) or may be too new to have yet developed a measurable commercial market.
As noted as the beginning of this section, this is a study of flexible hose and tubing produced from polymeric materials. We do not cover either rigid plastic pipe/tubing or metal tubing; these subjects, such as the important markets for metal (e.g. aluminum and copper) and rigid plastic tubing, are covered, as noted, in detail in a companion BCC Research report, The Competitive Pipe Industry, (MFG012H).
We also do not include tubes and tubing that are not usually considered part of the traditional industry for hose and tubing that transport fluids and other materials. Other uses for tubes and tubing include such products as core tubes for paper towel and tissue products, fiber tube packaging for juice concentrates and other food/beverage products, toothpaste and other product packaging tubes, drinking straws, and the like. Structural and other fabrication tubing, as well as decorative tubes, is also outside our scope. Thus this report is devoted exclusively to flexible hose and tubing used for materials transport.
Extensive searches were made of the literature and the Internet, including many of the leading trade publications, as well as technical compendia, government publications, and information from trade and other associations. Much product and market information was obtained from the principals involved in the industry. The information for our company profiles was obtained primarily from the companies themselves, especially the larger publicly owned firms. Other sources included directories, articles, and Internet sites.
Dr. Charles Forman has over 50 years of chemical engineering and business experience in private business, the healthcare industry and at a major not-for-profit educational association. He is an expert on the worldwide chemical process industries, with specialization in healthcare, petroleum and petrochemicals, specialty and agrichemicals, plastics, and packaging. He has written many market research reports for BCC Research on subjects including polymers and plastic packaging, petroleum processing, healthcare policy and products, food and feed additives, chemicals/petrochemicals/specialty chemicals, pesticides, and biotechnology.

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Published - Mar-2004| Analyst - Charles Forman| Code - PLS012D

Report Highlights

  • The U.S. market for polymeric materials used in fabricating flexible hose and tubing is large and mature and the total volume of materials used is estimated to be about 719 million pounds in 2003.
  • The market is expected to rise at an average growth rate (AAGR) of 2.6% to 818 million pounds in 2008.
  • Non-elastomeric thermoplastic resins make up over 50% of the market and will rise at a 2.7% AAGR to 468 million pounds in 2008.
  • Thermoplastic elastomers, while the smallest market segment, will rise the fastest, at an AAGR of 3.4% to 68 million pounds in 2008.
  • Thermosetting elastomers make up the remainder.
  • Consumer and healthcare applications make up 48% of the market primarily in medical tubing.


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