Acrylic Resins and Plastics
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Published: December 2010
In this report, the term acrylic resins and plastics includes sheet and molding and extrusion compounds that are composed of over 50% polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA). Since 2009, demand for PMMA has been increasing worldwide. Demand for PMMA as acrylic sheet and molding compounds is largely dependent on the general economy of the region. Growth has been particularly strong in Southeast Asia where it is used in construction, automotive applications and in a new fast-growing segment as a backlit light-guide material in liquid crystal display (LCD) televisions. Improvements in motor vehicle production will show significant gains for most regions.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of acrylic resins and plastics:
One of the fastest growing applications for PMMA sheet is flat panel displays (FPD), the major market for which includes liquid crystal display (LCD) screens, plasma display panels (PDP), and organic light emission displays (OLED). This market is forecast to grow at 15% annually during 2010–2012 with television, mobile phone and computer production, which is centered in Asia. This market could have grown faster, had it not been for a shortage of methyl methacrylate (MMA).
Light-guiding materials are used in light-guiding panels to guide the light from the light source and distribute it homogeneously to the front side of the LCD panel. PMMA is the major material used for light-guiding panels, with consumption growth forecast at just over 10% annually during 2010–2015.
Another potential application of acrylic sheet is in the production of photovoltaic cells for the solar industry. Currently, acrylics account for only about 1% of consumption, with glass accounting for the remaining 99%. This market is growing rapidly. PMMA film/sheet is proposed to replace glass as the front cover, offering the advantages of being lightweight, flexible and cost efficient. Thin-film solar cells are also developing into a rapidly growing market segment.
Countries within 35 degrees north or south of the equator, referred to as the Sunbelt countries, account for nearly 75% of the world's population and 40% of the global electricity demand. Nearly 80% of the forecast world electricity demand during the next twenty years will originate in this region, yet in 2010 it accounts for only an estimated 9% of total global installed PV capacity. The PV potential of this region is estimated to range from 60 to 250 gigawatts by 2020 and from 260 to 1,100 gigawatts by 2030.
Over the next five years, further steady growth for PMMA products is expected. Several of the more important drivers include an improved global economy, increased disposable income, increased use in construction/architecture and motor vehicles (for weight reduction and functionality), and electronics. In the longer term, acrylic resins, sheet and film offer a number of solutions for the solar industry and mobile electronic devices. However, in the short term the shortfall in the global methyl methacrylate (MMA) monomer supply will continue until suppliers expand capacity.