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Published: January 2012
Polyamide elastomers (PAEs) are high-performance thermoplastic elastomers based on nylon and polyethers or polyesters. PAEs are also known as polyether block amides or as copolyester amides and thermoplastic elastomer-amides. They are used mainly in areas where other thermoplastic elastomers cannot compete/perform, especially at lower temperatures.
During the last couple of years, the market for polyamide elastomers was predominantly negatively influenced by the worldwide economic crisis in 2008/2009, when worldwide demand contracted considerably. In 2010, global polyamide elastomer markets recovered much faster than expected, by around 18%. During 2011, recovery of the markets slowed, especially in North America and Europe. Japanese recovery of the market in 2011 was also slowed by the massive earthquake and tsunami that year. Europe continues to be the largest market for polyamide elastomers.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of polyamide elastomers:
In Europe, polyamide elastomers compete in several applications with thermoplastic polyurethane elastomers (TPUs), copolyester-ether elastomers and silicon elastomers. TPUs have the advantage of being lower priced. Polyamide elastomers, on the other hand, are lighter and more flexible, and maintain flexibility/hardness to the lowest temperature of all thermoplastic elastomers. In high-performance sports where every gram counts, PAEs are often preferred.
Sporting goods—in particular ski boots, ski and snowboard surface layers, and soccer shoe soles—is still the largest end use for PAEs in Europe, accounting for about 40% of the market, but it is also the most mature market. Because much of the production of shoes has moved to Asia, winter sports applications are now the most important markets for polyether block amides in Europe. PAEs are also used in ski goggle frames, footballs and soccer balls, scuba diving equipment components and tennis racquet inserts.
PAE demand is most dynamic in East Asia (excluding Japan). Demand in Asian countries other than Japan is forecast to grow by more than 10% per year through 2016. Global PAE demand is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 4–5% between 2011 and 2016.