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Published: September 2012
This report discusses the two major categories of specialty films—engineering films and high performance films. Each category has the following major classes:
- Engineering films
- High performance films
- Polyethylene naphthalate
- Cyclo-olefin copolymer/polymer
Although they are consumed in much lower quantities than engineering films, high performance films tend to have higher prices and higher value in use.
The following pie chart shows consumption of specialty films in the United States, Europe, Japan and China on a value basis:
Suppliers must strive to consistently make high-quality, well-differentiated films with clearly discernible performance advantages. Performance is critical in most applications. In addition to rigorous product development efforts, successful film fabricators must also place a strong emphasis on market and applications development. Before reaching the end user, most specialty films are sold to film converters, which transform films into ready-to-use products and often distribute those products to end users.
Compared with other businesses covered in this report, the polyester film business is large, global and very competitive. A large number of companies supply polyester film, and some, such as DuPont Teijin/Teijin DuPont, Mitsubishi, and Toray, maintain fabrication facilities in more than one geographic region. The polyester film business is increasingly moving to Asia. Established US biaxially oriented PET producers such as DuPont Teijin Films and Eastman Kodak shuttered capacity during the recession.
Dominated by regional players, the nylon film business is less global than most of the other classes of specialty films. Over 80% of the film consumed goes into flexible packaging (primarily food and medical) applications.
The polycarbonate film business is dominated by SABIC IP. SABIC has a majority share of the US market, and the company is establishing and/or expanding its fabrication facilities in other regions as well. Bayer MaterialScience (BMS) is a major Western European fabricator and has a fabrication facility in the United States.
Five film types account for about 95% of the worldwide demand for fluoropolymer film—PTFE, PVF, FEP, PVDF and ETFE. As the world's leading fabricator of fluoropolymer films, DuPont supplies PFA, ETFE, PVF and FEP films to markets in the United States, Western Europe, Japan and China. Honeywell makes ECTFE and PCTFE films; it serves US markets with these materials and also exports the films to Western Europe, Japan and China. Arkema Kureha and Solvay/Ajedium produce PVDF resin and fabricate film. PTFE film is the largest-volume fluoropolymer film.
Polyimide (PI) film uses can be divided into low-end and high-end applications. Low-end applications include pressure-sensitive tapes and insulating films for wire, cables, motors and generators. High-end applications include the use of PI films as carrier films in flexible printed circuits and all related applications, such as tape automated bonding, chip on film and flexible copper-clad laminates. The polyimide film business, previously dominated by DuPont/DuPont Toray and Kaneka, has seen quite a few new entrants during the last five years. Since 2008, SKC Kolon PI has been producing and selling PI film in the Republic of Korea, where it is following an aggressive expansion policy. In China, there are about forty minor and independent PI film producers, although most of the locally produced PI film in China is consumed for low-end applications.
A number of companies, the most successful of which are in Japan, have developed new types of films from various high performance resins during the past decade. Consumed in very small volumes, most of these films are produced in small volumes. Suppliers are seeking niche markets that can benefit from a combination of the films' price and performance characteristics, which generally lie between those of polyester and polyimide films. Japanese companies have made significant strides in commercializing these films because of two factors—the well-developed electronics industry, which is a key market for these films, and the fact that suppliers and end users work closely together to develop applications globally. The long-term prospects are mixed for these small, niche films; some businesses are struggling while others appear to offer great promise.
- Engineering films