Eller: TPEs experiencing global growth

By Bill Bregar
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: September 17, 2012 6:00 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Materials, Suppliers, Automotive, Medical

AKRON, OHIO (Sept. 17, 8:55 a.m. ET) — Thermoplastic elastomers are growing, thanks to the automotive recovery, new soft-touch packaging and as a PVC substitute in the health-care industry, according to Robert Eller, a market analyst.

Much of that growth is global — including increased use in the China, India and other developing nations.

But Eller said North America’s TPE future is bright as well. He cited the rebound in automotive, which accounts for about half of all TPE consumption, plus new applications in medical and packaging. Reshoring also is bringing some work back from China, he said.

In automotive, TPEs will gain penetration in body glazing and seals, hose and exterior body side molding.

Eller said radiator hose is one promising application, which probably will require coextrusion. He called the hose segment “enormous, but quite challenging technically.”

“That’s an area we’ve looked at for five or six years, and it looks like now it’s just beginning to take off,” Eller said at the TPE TopCon, a conference organized by the Society of Plastics Engineers, held Sept. 10-12 in Akron.

Healthcare is the fastest-growing market, as TPEs replace PVC in blood bags and tubing.

In packaging, TPEs are coming to closures and labels. One high-profile example is a Bayer aspirin bottle with a cap a TPE cover for an easy-opening grip. “The soft touch phenomenon is extending into packaging,” Eller said.

The foaming of TPEs can create a high-flow of a relatively thin coating of the soft material.

Eller outlined the global economy and material science in his presentation that kicked off the conference. He owns Robert Eller Associates LLC of Akron.

“The industry is maturing. And with the maturity goes commoditization of some of the TPE grades,” he said. One example: Thermoplastic olefin (TPO) bumper fascia and styrenic block copolymers for footware. Some major material suppliers are de-emphasizing commodity TPEs, or exiting that price-sensitive segment altogether, he said.

Specialty TPEs, on the other hand, are targeted for specific applications such as health-care grades, new acrylic grades, bio-TPEs and what Eller terms “super TPVs,” described as thermoplastic vulcanizates “based on high-performance rubbers in a sea of engineering thermoplastics.”

With resistance to high temperatures and oil, super TPVs could win automotive under-hood applications, traditionally dominated by specialty rubbers.

Eller predicted new growth areas for SBCs, using a kind of cross-inking process to improve melt strength. That will allow SBCs to be processed using blow molding, film extrusion and calendering, profile and tubing extrusion and thermoforming.

“The challenge for the styrenic block copolymers is one major fact, which is that they have a very steep melt viscosity vs. temperature curve. You have the benefit of high flow. But the implications of it is, that you have low melt strength,” he said.

Eller also spelled out a hurdle to TPE growth in some traditional rubber parts.

“This issue with rubber is that much of that compounding is done in-house by the fabricators. In other words, they’re able to control the complete supply chain, from basic raw material to fabricated part — for example, a body seal. And the rubber fabricators don’t like to give that up,” he said. “That is a major barrier to the penetration of TPEs into several marketplaces that are high-volume products.”

In the 1970s TV show Welcome Back Kotter, Vinnie Barbarino’s famous put down was “Up your nose with a rubber hose.” If they made a reunion episode today — and could convince John Travolta to play Barbarino, circa 2012, he would say: “Up your nose with a TPE hose.”


Comments

Eller: TPEs experiencing global growth

By Bill Bregar
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: September 17, 2012 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Toyoda Gosei's growth strategy places a big focus on North America

October 23, 2014 1:21 pm ET

Sometimes, knowing your weaknesses is just as important as knowing your strengths. And if 2014 is any indication, automotive supplier Toyoda Gosei Co....    More

Image

Total picks new management following CEO's death in crash

October 23, 2014 11:03 am ET

Total SA has picked a new management team to oversee the company in the wake of a plane crash in Moscow that killed its chairman and CEO earlier this ...    More

Image

Report: Private equity companies may seek to buy Bayer MaterialScience

October 23, 2014 10:56 am ET

A number of investment groups are reported to be interested buying Bayer AG's MaterialScience operation, valued at around 10 billion euros ($12.6...    More

Image

Plastics lead Dow's quarterly growth

October 23, 2014 10:15 am ET

Dow Chemical Co. has announced its third quarter results for 2014 showing a 5 percent increase on the third quarter of 2013, rising to $14.4 billion...    More

Image

A. Schulman reports growth in sales and profit

October 22, 2014 7:58 pm ET

Executives with materials maker A. Schulman Inc. have to be smiling after seeing full results for the firm's 2014 fiscal year.    More

Market Reports

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 million dollar plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our analysts provide insight on business trends, foreign investment, top end markets and plastics processing activity. The report also provides important data on exports, production, employment and value of plastics products manufactured.

Learn more

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events