Published May 2017
Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) is the largest-volume engineering thermoplastic resin, offering an excellent balance of heat, chemical, and impact resistance with superior processing versatility. Large-volume applications for ABS resins include appliance parts, electronic/electrical, and transportation (automotive) end uses. ABS resins are frequently used in polymer blends for many different applications, to achieve the best of all properties from the combined product.
China continues to drive the ABS resin market, with more than one-third of global capacity and more than half of global consumption in 2016. The migration of manufacturing of electronic/electrical, appliances, and other markets to China over the years has resulted in increased ABS demand in the country. The appliance market in China will continue to grow as the middle class population grows, since this emerging group purchases more durable goods that use ABS resins.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of ABS resins in 2016:
World consumption of ABS resins is led by appliances and electronic/electrical applications, accounting for more than two-thirds of total world ABS resin consumption in 2016. The next-largest end use for ABS resins is in the transportation sector (automobiles). Electronics uses will grow at more than 4% per year, while appliances and transportation uses will increase at 3–4% per year through the forecast period.
Although the average annual growth in consumption during 2011–16 was less than 2.5%, the next five years look more promising in terms of demand, with a forecast growth rate of about 3.7% per year. China is expected to represent about 65% of the additional volume; the Indian Subcontinent, the Middle East, and South Korea are also expected to witness strong growth. Western Europe, North America, and Japan are mature economies, exhibiting modest growth rates of less than 2% per year in the next five years.
The ABS resin market is currently oversupplied. Global capacity increased during 2011–16 at a rate of 4.0% per year compared with consumption growth of 2.3% per year; this resulted in a near six percentage point drop in operating rates. However, stronger demand prospects and a lower capacity addition rate (1.5% per year) during 2016–21 are expected to improve global operating rates by 2021.
Over the last five years, North America and Europe have seen some consolidation and capacity rationalization as demand growth has slowed. The number of producers in the Asian market has also increased, which has resulted in a more competitive market and excess capacity.