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This study analyzes the global industrial market for thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) by region and product. For the purposes of this study, a thermoplastic elastomer is defined as any thermoplastic material that exhibits elastomeric properties; TPEs therefore offer the functional performance characteristics of thermoset rubber but are processed using the methods and machinery of rigid thermoplastics.
TPEs covered in this report are:
copolyester elastomers (COPEs)
polyolefin elastomers (POEs)
styrenic block copolymers (SBCs)
thermoplastic polyolefins (TPOs)
thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs)
thermoplastic vulcanizates (TPVs)
SBCs that do not exhibit elastomeric properties (i.e., high styrene products that contain roughly 60% or more styrene) are excluded from the scope of this study.
While TPOs and TPVs are “polyolefin elastomers” in a technical sense, they are defined separately for the purposes of this study. Furthermore, vulcanized olefin elastomers such as EPDM and ethylene-propylene rubber are not TPEs and are thus excluded.
Compounds with vulcanized elastomers are considered to be TPVs rather than TPOs. Various sources and manufacturers differ on the degree of vulcanization required to define an olefinic TPE as a TPV, so estimates of current global demand can vary.
For the purposes of this report, industrial TPEs are defined as those used in the manufacture of industrial products such as:
gaskets and seals
hoses and belts
other industrial goods (e.g., wheels on equipment, clamps, connectors, grommets, hand knobs, membranes, plugs)
Historical data (2009, 2014, and 2019) and forecasts for 2024 and 2029 are presented for industrial TPE demand in metric tons.
Demand by Elastomer Type
Global demand for TPEs used in industrial products is expected to grow 3.5% per year to 823,000 metric tons in 2024. The industrial products market is expected to see significant losses in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
declines in manufacturing activity due to closure of “nonessential” businesses and raw material shortages
falling investment in new machinery, reducing demand for TPE components such as gaskets, seals, and hoses
Demand is expected to rebound in 2021 to pre-pandemic levels, but losses in 2020 will restrain greater growth through 2024.
TPV will continue to expand at a healthy rate in industrial applications because it is easier to process than, but texturally similar to, EPDM rubber, the material it most closely resembles. Additionally, TPV’s sustainable properties – including its reduced waste during manufacturing and its increased recyclability – will boost demand in industrial applications. However, all major product types will record solid growth relative to rubber due to TPEs performance advantages, including:
SBCs, which are chosen for their high tensile strength, elongation, resilience, flexibility, and impact resistance – useful in belts, gaskets, grommets, hoses, impellers, and seals
TPOs, which possess high-temperature properties and resistance to adverse environmental elements – beneficial in oil and gas drilling equipment and petrochemical processing equipment
TPUs, which will see gains due to excellent abrasion resistance and toughness, as well as oil and chemical resistance and good load-bearing properties – finding a niche in belting, low pressure tubing, gaskets and seals, chute linings, hose jacketing, bladders, pipe end protection caps, wheels and casters, gears, sprockets, rollers, and vibration dampening components
Demand by Application
Demand for TPEs used in industrial products is expected to grow 3.5% yearly to 823,000 metric tons in 2024. Benefits of TPEs in industrial applications are:
lower production costs
ease of processing
Gaskets and seals are projected to remain the largest application in the industrial products market for TPEs. The development of new TPE products with high performance attributes including chemical resistance and flexibility, along with their good processability, recyclability, and lifespan as compared to rubber, has made them increasingly popular choices for gaskets and seals, which can often be difficult to reach for repair or replacement.
Hoses and belts are expected to see a similar rate of growth, as TPEs improve the ability of hoses and belts to handle high levels of stress and extreme temperatures in intense environments such as those found in engines.
While TPEs are most commonly used in applications formerly held by rubber – i.e., belts, gaskets, hoses, and seals – the fastest increases will be recorded by overmolded products such as knobs, handles, and clamps, which feature improved ergonomic design, soft touch, or non-slip surfaces.
Comparative prices and final installed cost are important considerations in determining the market potential for thermoplastic elastomers:
The price range for TPEs is wide, with actual cost to the customer depending on product type, proprietary formulation, and grade.
Although TPEs are typically more expensive than thermoset rubber on a per kilogram basis, this higher cost can be offset by TPEs’ lower weight and savings in manufacturing costs due to the use of thermoplastic processing methods such as injection molding.
In 2019, average prices for these TPEs ranged from $2.35 per kilogram for POEs to $8.40 per kilogram for COPEs. Prices can be even higher for niche products such as silicone- or fluoropolymer-based TPEs.
Global demand for thermoplastic elastomers in the industrial market is forecast to grow 3.5% yearly to 823,000 metric tons in 2024. Gains will be supported by:
ongoing replacement of EPDM and thermoset rubbers by TPEs worldwide
continued healthy growth in manufacturing output in the Asia/Pacific region, where TPEs have additional room to penetrate the industrial products market
technical innovations expanding the range of industrial TPE applications , such as the development of overmolding, flame-retardant, and abrasion-resistant grades
However, stronger growth will be restrained by the need to recover that arose from the closure of “nonessential” businesses, raw material shortages, and falling investment in new machinery during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Better Performing TPVs & TPUs Increasingly Penetrate Industrial Products Market
Thermoplastic vulcanizates (TPVs) and thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs) are expected to experience above average growth through 2024 due to:
TPVs are easy to process and gave superior performance abilities compared to EPDM rubber and other TPEs. Good opportunities for TPVs will exist in hoses, gaskets, and seals.
TPUs have excellent abrasion resistance, oil, and chemical resistance as well as good load bearing properties. Healthy gains will be seen for conveyor treads, pump diaphragms, and weather stripping.
Styrenic block copolymers (SBCs) will remain the most widely used TPE in industrial products, accounting for 32% of demand in 2024, with this position supported by SBC’s soft touch – useful for such applications as knobs and grips – and its relatively low price. SBC’s market share will continue to decline, however, as other TPEs with properties such as high impact strength and light weight penetrate more demanding industrial applications.
Asia/Pacific Offers Best Opportunities; Demanding Applications Spur Gains in Other Markets
China is a massive market for TPEs used in industrial products that will account for 74% of absolute regional gains and 50% of absolute global gains through 2024 due to the country’s massive manufacturing base. India is also expected to see above average growth, with gains in both countries driven by expanding penetration of TPEs in the manufacture of an array of industrial products as well as by increases in machinery manufacturing.
Although TPE penetration is already high in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan – as well as in North America and Western Europe – are mature, additional opportunities exist for TPEs to supplant thermoset rubber, particularly in more demanding applications such as engine components or those used in metalworking where fluid exposure is high.