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Published: September 2011
Nylon fibers are used in a broad range of apparel, home furnishing and industrial end uses, particularly in areas that require high tensile strength and abrasion resistance. The somewhat different physical properties of nylon 6 and 66 are not considered important in most end-use applications and nylon 6 and 66 tend to be used interchangeably; in the carpeting industry nylon 66 may be preferred because of its molecular structure, which leads to greater product durability.
Global nylon fiber capacity has been in a gradual decline over the past decade. Despite continued expansions in China, reductions in the more mature markets of North America, Western Europe and Japan contributed to average annual declines of 0.5–1% during 1998-2008. The impact of the financial crisis beginning in 2008 resulted in sharp declines in all market sectors and led to an additional 3.7% capacity drop during 2008–2010 as many global manufacturers restructured their businesses. Improved demand beginning in 2010 and small additions in North America and Western Europe have slowed the declining trends. An estimated 4–7% increase in capacity is anticipated during the forecast period, with a majority coming onstream in China.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of nylon fibers:
Increasing nylon fiber production in Asia (excluding Japan) over the past ten to fifteen years is a reflection of Asian countries' intent to expand textile output for both domestic and export markets. In addition, with further economic development comes greater nylon fiber consumption for industrial applications. China continues to be the center of the world's nylon fiber manufacture. Although production continues to increase in China, most other producing countries in Asia have experienced no growth to slow declines. This will continue as export markets contract on growing Chinese output.
Over the next five years, world demand will grow at an average annual rate of 2.8%. While automotive markets have shown considerable recovery in 2010–2011, housing and construction industries remain sluggish, suggesting a moderate recovery in the United States and Western Europe. Both Central and Eastern Europe and Central and South America will experience 2.5% average annual increases from expanding tire and automotive markets and improving economic stability and growth. Asia will continue to lead world demand at around 3.6% per year. China's growing domestic economy and major role as a global supplier of finished goods will fuel much of this growth.