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Published: May 2012
Methyl methacrylate monomer is by far the most important methacrylic acid ester. It is a colorless, volatile, flammable liquid that is slightly soluble in water. It polymerizes readily upon heating in the presence of a free radical initiator to form polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) resins, which have excellent transparency, strength and outdoor durability. Methyl methacrylate is also copolymerized with other monomers (vinyl acetate, acrylate esters or other methacrylates); the bulk of consumption is in acrylic polymers.
Construction/remodeling activity, automotive applications and original equipment manufacture (OEM) account for approximately 80% of world methyl methacrylate consumption. Demand for these markets is greatly influenced by general economic conditions. As a result, demand for methyl methacrylate largely follows the patterns of the leading world economies. The markets for methyl methacrylate are largely captive; many large producers consume 50–60% of their production captively, mainly for PMMA resins or surface coatings.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of methyl methacrylate:
PMMA resins for acrylic sheet and molding compounds is the largest market for methyl methacrylate in most regions. In 2011, acrylic sheet accounted for almost 32% of world demand, followed closely by molding compounds at about 31%.
World consumption of methyl methacrylate grew at an average annual rate of 3.0% during 2008–2011, down from 3.6% during 2005–2008 (and 5.0% during 2002–2005). This slowing trend has been caused by rising feedstock and energy prices as well as weaker demand caused by a sluggish global economy, especially during 2008–2009 and the latter half of 2011. Strong Asian (excluding Japan) demand in all applications (predominantly sheet for flat panel production) has boosted overall demand during the past few years and is likely to continue to drive much of the world's demand. A rapidly growing market has made Asia the top choice for additional investment/capacity.
Global growth in consumption is forecast to average 4.0% annually during 2011–2016.