Overview of thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU)
Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is a category of elastomers that are completely thermoplastic. This means that TPUs are both melt-processable and elastic in nature. Technically, TPUs consist of block copolymers segmented in a linear pattern and are composed of hard and soft segments. The soft segment can be either a polyester or polyether type, while the hard segments are either aliphatic or aromatic. TPUs are highly versatile, which has resulted in a flourishing thermoplastic polyurethane market.
TPUs can be processed through extrusion and injection molding. Some of the main features of TPU are high resilience, resistance against tears, impact, weather, abrasions and hydrocarbons, high elasticity, flexibility, biocompatibility, optical clarity, anti-static, flame retardant, and hydrolytic stability.
The thermoplastic polyurethane market is fuelled by the growth of the global automobile and footwear industry, and trade analysts suggest that new entrants can venture into untapped TPU sectors such as medical industry, bio-based alternatives and athletic footwear. What restrains the global TPU market is the volatile nature of raw material prices and growing concern about the environment.
Market segmentation and forecast for the thermoplastic polyurethane market
The global TPU market can be segmented on the basis of application, end use and geography. By application, TPU can be used for extrusion, paints and coatings, adhesives and sealants, and injection molding. As far as end use is concerned, the various sections that TPU is utilized in are construction, hose and tubing, wire and cable, automotive, electronics and appliances, footwear and industrial insulation.
With respect to application, extrusion dominates the TPU market in terms of revenue and volume, followed by injection molding, and sealants and adhesives.
Taking end use into consideration, the automotive sector forms the largest chunk of the global thermoplastic polyurethane market and what has propelled this sector is the significant growth of the automobile market across the world. In terms of volume and revenue, wires and cables lead the TPU industry, closely followed by tubing and then automotive segments.
The main regions that come under the TPU market are:
- North America: This includes Mexico and the U.S.
- EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa): This includes United Kingdom, Germany and Italy
- Asia-Pacific: This includes China, Japan, India, Taiwan and South Korea
- Rest of the World: This includes Brazil
In terms of TPU consumption, production and revenue generation, the Asia-Pacific region dominates the global thermoplastic polyurethane market thanks to increasing demand and cost effectiveness especially in the China TPU market. Emerging Asian segments such as Indonesia and Vietnam are showing potential and attracting investors in the thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) market. Europe follows next despite the economic slowdown. The Europe thermoplastic polyurethane market is also expected to mature significantly over the next few years. While the demand for TPU in the Middle East and Africa is still limited, there have been recent developments in the market of Turkey where producers of TPU have emerged.
Global outlook of the TPU market
In 2010, the global thermoplastic polyurethane market was estimated to be worth USD 987.2 million and market intelligence firms predict that this figure is likely to climb to USD 1,746.9 million in 2018, with a compound annual growth rate of more than 5.5% from 2013 to 2018. The extrusion segment of the TPU industry has been growing at a CAGR of 5.1% during the forecast period as far as volume is concerned, and in terms of revenue, its growth rate is 5.7% for the same duration. The wires and cables segment has been generating the maximum revenue in the TPU market and is growing at a CAGR of 5.9% between 2013 and 2018. The EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region market for thermoplastic polyurethane has shown an annual upward growth of 4.9% in revenue share. With respect to volume, China, the most attractive segment in the Asia-Pacific region, is growing at 7.8% CAGR from 2013-2018.
The leading competitors of the thermoplastic polyurethane market include: AG (Germany), BASF SE (Germany), Bayer Material Science, Huntsman Corporation (U.S.), Wanhua Chemical Group Co. Ltd (China), and Lubrizol Corporation (U.S.).