Rigid Transparent Plastics

Published - Oct 2010| Analyst - Melvin Schlechter| Code - PLS003H
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Report Highlights

  • The North American transparent plastics market is estimated at more than 3.3 billion pounds in 2010, and is expected to reach 4 billion pounds by 2015, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.7%.
  • Clear polycarbonate consumption is estimated at 950 million pounds in 2010 and is expected to increase at a 4.1% a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to reach 1.2 billion pounds in 2015, led by automotive, medical, and electronics applications.
  • The acrylic transparent market is valued at 866 million pounds in 2010 and is expected to reach more than 1 billion pounds by 2015, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.8%. Building/construction applications account for almost 60% of total volume, but the electronic segment will show the largest growth.



The objective of this study is to provide an analysis of rigid transparent plastics in terms of current and forecasted usage. New developments in clear plastics expanded usage in existing and new applications, and competition between polymers exhibiting optical clarity will be covered. The competitive scenario between glass and clear plastics will also be noted, as well as detailed discussions on the competition between individual 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.
Rigid transparent plastics have become a significant market and encompass many types of polymers. In addition to acrylics and polycarbonates, many styrene-based materials, along with commodity and specialty polymers are available in clear grades. Opportunities in several application areas are in need of reappraisal in regard to transparent or clear plastics, especially in electronic, medical, and automotive sectors in economically dire times. Of special interest within the electronic sector is use of transparent plastics as substrates for CDs, DVDs, and more recent variants.
The term “transparent” or “clear” is obviously a subjective one. Most definitions 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, although many suppliers claim “clear grades” with percentages of 80% or lower such that the distinction between “transparent” and “translucent” is often hazy. Other related important ASTM tests include the D-523 and the D-542.
Clear plastics are commercially available in many forms, for example, injection molded, extruded, blow molded, thermoformed, and so forth. Many extruded products are also converted to clear films. The many uses of these films (commodity, specialty, coextruded, plastic food, medical packaging, etc.) could be the subject of a separate report. Thus, the “packaging” markets such as healthcare and food are not “covered” in this report.
Blow-molded clear plastics are hollow and most are converted to bottles or containers, while thermoformed plastics are similar to injection molded except that they are usually thinner and require less expensive equipment and capital outlay.
Thus, this report will cover rigid, clear, non-packaging plastic products, which include injection molded, non-film extrusion, and thermoforming (including cast sheet). As noted, the major plastic products excluded from this report will be flexible and hollow thin materials (including films).
Those clear resins covered in this report specifically include: acrylics, polycarbonates, polystyrenes, styrene block copolymers (SBCs), styrene acrylonitrile (SAN), ABS, polysulfones, thermoplastic polyesters (almost exclusively, PET), polypropylene, acrylic-styrene copolymers (SMMA), PVC, nylon, cellulosic resins, cyclic olefin copolymers (COCs), and allyl diglycol carbonate (ADC).
Major applications for these rigid transparent plastics, in addition to medical, electronic, and automotive markets, include: building/construction (glazing, lighting lenses, signs/displays), housewares, appliances, toys, optical lenses, and aircraft transparencies.
Geographic scope of this report is the North American market.
Both primary and secondary research methodologies were used in preparing this study. A comprehensive review was undertaken of the 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 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 polymethylmethacrylate and PMMA. Methylmethacrylate polymers are also synonymous with PMMA and the terms “acrylics” and/or “acrylic polymers” are often used as well.
Research analyst Mel Schlechter has more than 40 years of experience in the chemical industry, and specializes in plastics market research. He has been with BCC Research for more than a decade and holds a B.S. in chemistry, M.S. in organic chemistry, and a M.B.A. in marketing.
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The information developed in this report is intended to be as reliable as possible at the time of publication and of a professional nature. This information does not constitute managerial, legal, or accounting advice; nor should it serve as a corporate policy guide, laboratory manual, or an endorsement of any product, as much of the information is speculative in nature. The author assumes no responsibility for any loss or damage that might result from reliance on the reported information or its use. 

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Published - Jun-2006| Analyst - Melvin Schlechter| Code - PLS003G

Report Highlights

  • The North American rigid transparent plastics market will reach almost 3.6 billion pounds in 2011. Polycarbonates, acrylics, and polystyrenes accounted for about 80% of total volume in 2005 and will maintain their aggregate share through the end of the decade.
  • The Building/Construction and Electronics segments account for slightly over 50% of total volume. Electronics, Optical Lenses, Medical and Automotive will show the highest growth rates. The Electronic market alone is forecast to comprise about 40% of the total transparent plastic volume increase from 2006 to 2011, which is being led by DVD and CD production.
  • In terms of intra-plastic competition, optical clarity, impact resistance, and UV stability are considered to be the most important physical parameters for rigid transparent plastics. Comparative pricing is also a factor in many instances.
Published - Nov-2001| Analyst - Melvin Schlechter| Code - PLS003F

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.


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