Adhesives and Sealants
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Published: October 2012
This report focuses on the supply/demand and business aspects of the higher-performance and higher-valued adhesives and sealants. However, the overall aspects of the adhesives and sealants business are also covered, as major adhesive and sealant producers usually produce a full range of both specialty and general-purpose products. Producers command a premium for highly specialized products, such as adhesives and sealants for the aircraft and electronics industry. However, producers of specialized products like silicone sealants and cyanoacrylate adhesives often brand their products for sale to consumer markets.
The following pie charts show world consumption of adhesives and sealants on a value basis.
Specialty adhesives are characterized by cross-linking after application, which establishes very strong bonds that exhibit good solvent, water and temperature resistance. Competitive adhesive technologies include waterborne emulsions, hot-melts, solvent-borne, and natural polymers that usually display lower performance than reactive-type adhesives and are usually less expensive.
Manufacturers often turn to adhesives when they switch from traditional materials to plastic. Many industrial users have learned to use adhesives and have come to appreciate their benefits—including vibration damping, reduced weight, improved surface appearance and sealing properties—which helps to encourage their use in new designs. These factors keep the volume growth of adhesives at rates above GDP in most regions.
One of the major uses for specialty adhesives is in product assembly, where they compete with mechanical fasteners. Demand for specialty adhesives is expected to rise in the automotive and aircraft industries, as manufacturers switch to plastics, composites and nonferrous materials of construction in order to reduce vehicle weights to reduce fuel consumption.
Specialty sealants are characterized by their ability to accommodate relatively large amounts of joint compression or tension with good recovery, and are suitable for use in commercial building and construction for exterior siding. Other, less expensive sealants include butyl, acrylic and polyvinyl acetate latex, and oil base and solvent caulks.
Sealants differ from adhesives in their primary function of filling gaps between surfaces to prevent the passage of air, water and/or chemicals. Sealant formulations typically possess higher elasticity and flexibility than adhesives and generally display lower cohesive strength, with failure occurring within the sealants and not at the bond line. Tensile strength is typically less than with adhesives since sealants usually do not have to resist shear forces. High performance sealants undergo chemical reactions after application to form strong seals.
As with many other products, consumption of adhesives and sealants tends to be mature in North America, Western Europe and Japan (with average annual growth of 1–3% forecast for 2011–2016), but growing in China (at an average annual rate of 8%) and other developing countries.
Environmental regulations continue to increase as more VOC emission sources are targeted for reduction or elimination. One of the biggest transitions currently is the switch from solvent-based adhesives to waterborne formulations for shoe manufacturing in China and other Asian countries. In Europe, sales of sealants are expected to rise as EU regulations for building insulation are imposed.