Published June 2016
Polycarbonate resins are tough thermoplastics usually derived from bisphenol A and phosgene. Polycarbonate resin was commercialized in the early 1960s and is now the second-largest-volume engineering resin produced, following crystalline nylon. Polycarbonate is an amorphous, very clear polymer with exceptionally high levels of impact strength and ductility, as well as inherent fire resistance and useful engineering properties over a wide temperature range. It has good resistance to UV light, although it has a tendency to yellow with long exposure. UV stabilizers have overcome this problem to some extent. Polycarbonate has very good resistance to aqueous solutions of organic and inorganic acids, salts, and oxidizing agents, but limited resistance to organic solvents.
Polycarbonate resin's unique combination of properties make it a material of choice in applications needing impact resistance. It outperforms similar transparent polymers available on the market, such as polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA). Its toughness, combined with transparency and high-temperature resistance, make polycarbonate a perfect candidate for demanding transparent applications, where safety is a factor. This includes personal safety equipment used in industrial, sport, and leisure environments. During the 1990s, polycarbonate delivered double-digit annual consumption growth and demand has continued to increase moderately over the last 10 years. The relative size of the market sectors has changed over the years.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of polycarbonate resins:
The largest markets for polycarbonate resins are electrical/electronic (including computer and business equipment), with a 21% share, followed by sheet and film (20%) and the automotive industry, including window and nonwindow applications (14%).
Consumption in most countries/regions is not dominated by any single application; however, the largest market varies—in the United States, it is automotive/transportation; in Western Europe, it is sheet and lm (used in building and construction); and in China and Japan, it is the electronic/electrical market.
In 2002, optical media had become the largest polycarbonate demand sector and managed to have the fastest growth rate until 2007, but since then, technological shifts and declining consumer demand have impacted this sector's growth. As of 2015, this segment accounted for less than 12% of global polycarbonate demand.
High barriers to entry into the polycarbonate resin business will persist because of the requirement for initial large investment, access to technological licensing, possible start-up diffculties, and the establishment of effcient and effective marketing.
There will be a continuing need to develop improved PC resins for the growing medical/ophthalmic applications and optical lens markets, including digital camera lenses and other uses requiring a high refractive index and low birefringence.
Northeast Asia is the largest consumer of polycarbonate resins and will be one of the fastest-growing regions, averaging growth of about 4% per year during 2015–20, driven by 5% per year growth in China. Polycarbonate capacity is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 3.5% during the next five years. Most capacity additions will take place in China.
Forecast growth rates for consumption of polycarbonate vary widely by region but the global consumption growth rate will average about 3% during 2015–20. The fastest growth will be in Asia (about 5% each for China and India), followed by the CIS and Baltic States and Southeast Asia at around 3.5–4.5%.