Organizers of the 2020 TPE Topcon were pleased with the results of the all-virtual event.
The event, hosted by the Society of Plastics Engineers on Sept. 15-16, drew almost 100 attendees and featured presentations on new types of thermoplastic elastomers and about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the TPE market.
Industry consultant Robert Eller focused on the effect of the pandemic on TPEs used in automotive interiors. He said that recessionary conditions "have affected and will affect the supply and demand sides of the auto sector."
Eller, president of Robert Eller Associates LLC in Akron, Ohio, added that the composition of auto sales is changing, with segments such as SUVs and sedans "becoming saturated," while electric vehicles and pickup trucks continue to gain market share.
Increasing demand for "smart interiors" and vehicles that can handle "massive amounts of data" are increasing TPE demand, according to Eller, especially for those compounded with specialty additives.
Longer term, Eller said that COVID-19 impacts could be seen for several years, with a slow recovery in vehicle sales beginning in late 2020 and early 2021. The pandemic also could lead to more of the auto interior supply chain reshoring to the U.S., he added.
On the materials front, styrenic block copolymers and thermoplastic vulcanizates (TPVs) will provide competition for thermoplastic olefins (TPOs) and PVC in interior panel skin applications, according to Eller.
Other presenters and topics at the event included:
• Faith Howard of ExxonMobil Chemical on new grades of Santoprene-brand TPVs for automotive corner molding and end-cap weatherseals.
• Prakash Sanjeevaiah of Star Thermoplastic Alloys & Rubbers Inc. on new developments for overmolding TPEs to engineering resins.
• Rich Spontak of North Carolina State University on TPE designs for broad-spectrum anti-microbial performance.
• Greg Sanders of BASF Corp. on Infinergy-brand TPU foam beads for cushioning.
• Rigoberto Advincula of Case Western Reserve University on 3D printing with TPEs.