The U.S. market for high-performance films was valued at $12.4 billion in
2011, and is projected to reach $14.9 billion in 2017, a five-year compound
annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.7% from 2012 to 2017.
The commodity films segment is expected to increase in value from $10.1
billion in 2012 to $11.7 billion in 2017, a CAGR of 3%.
The high-performance films segment is expected to increase in value from $2.3
billion in 2012 to $3.2 billion in 2017, a CAGR of 6.8%.
High-performance thermoplastic (TP) films are playing an increasingly
important role as engineers design products in increasingly demanding
environments. Historically, the most important applications were for
photographic and reprographic applications. Today, these films may make
possible safer and lighter packaging, economic electric vehicles, better
liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and the growth of an economically practical
photovoltaic (PV) industry.
Major companies such as DuPont, Solvay and 3M are important technology drivers
and invest significant capital in R&D to improve the technology. Innovations
were driven initially by chemistry. Increasingly, they are driven by improved
fabrication and treatment of films. One example is the incredibly complex
development of specialty polyolefin films as membrane separators for
Engineers define films in different ways, but generally they have thicknesses
ranging from 0.001 inches to 0.300 inches. Some markets define films slightly
differently. Thicknesses above 0.20 inches (20 mils) may be defined as sheet
by some. Thicknesses up to 0.40 inches (40 mils) may be defined as film by
some engineers. As explained in this report, minimum film thicknesses are
trending toward micro as exciting technologies emerge. Many high-temperature
films are in the range of 0.001 inches to 0.010 inches.
A word on film thickness units: both English and metric units commonly are
used. U.S. film thickness is expressed in gauge. In film technology, gauge
is a measurement where one gauge unit equals 0.01 mil or about 0.25 micron.
Perhaps the easiest way to remember the relationship between these unit
systems is that 100-gauge film is 1 mil or 25 microns thick. For this report,
film gauge will be referred to in the manner that is the standard in the
industry under discussion.
STUDY GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Goals and objectives of this study include the following:
- Identifying trends affecting high-performance polymer films and their
major end-use application markets. For example, the photovoltaic market is
one of the fastest-growing markets for high-performance film. Each of the
major polymer films or film families is discussed and analyzed in detail.
They include polyesters, nylons, acrylics, polyolefin-based, polycarbonates,
fluoropolymers, cyclic olefin copolymers and polyimides.
- Reviewing, analyzing and forecasting specific end markets for
high-performance films by material types, with sections devoted to each class
of high-performance film. This includes both the major resin types and
several smaller-volume film materials for which markets were estimated.
- Analyzing and forecasting market developments from the viewpoint of major
applications for high-performance films (i.e., automotive, electrical/
electronic, magnetic media, packaging, photographic/reprographic and release
- Analyzing how structural issues affect the high-performance plastic films
industry, such as the roles of film fabricators, converters, and distributors;
product differentiation and substitution; marketing and pricing; and
international aspects of the business.
- Profiling many of the most important suppliers to the high-performance
plastic films industry, for example, providers of plastic resins (many of whom
also fabricate films), equipment producers, and specific film converters and
REASONS FOR DOING THE STUDY
The ability of engineers to meet design goals for products such as solar cells
or batteries that power cars will depend on development of high-quality
performance films. High-performance markets increasingly are becoming where
the major chemical companies want to place their future. DuPont, for example,
expects its sales for PV applications to exceed $1 billion by 2012. DuPont's
increased sales in this area come from the company's increasing investment in
fluoropolymer and other high-performance films.
These markets offer opportunities to create value and move discussions to
topics beyond purchase price. Technology advances in this business area will
help drive technology developments in other areas such as electronics. This
will have a significant effect on our economy and even provide the ability to
solve climate change problems. High-performance films offer opportunities for
applications such as solar cells and fuel cells that can help solve global
warming, one of the most serious environmental concerns.
CONTRIBUTION OF THE STUDY AND INTENDED AUDIENCE
Due to the size and diversity of the materials and products used in
high-performance plastic films, this report should be of interest to a wide
group of organizations and individuals. This includes people who are involved
in the development, design, manufacture, sale and use of these films, as well
as government officials and the general public. This report will be of value
to technical and business personnel in the following areas, among others:
- Personnel in end-user companies in a wide range of industries from
aerospace to photographic film and food packaging; the focus of this report is
on the interests of specifying engineers and procurement commodity managers.
- Marketing and management personnel in companies that produce, market, and
sell high-performance plastic films.
- Companies involved in the design and construction of process plants that
manufacture both the basic film resins and high-performance plastic films
- Companies that supply, or want to supply, equipment and services to
high-performance plastic films companies.
- Financial institutions that supply money for such facilities and systems,
including banks, merchant bankers, venture capitalists and others.
- Investors in both equity and fixed-income markets; the fate of the
specialty film business very much depends on the values of the publicly traded
stocks of companies such as 3M, Kodak and DuPont.
- Personnel in government at many levels, ranging from federal to state and
local authorities, many of whom are involved in trying to ensure public health
and safety; the report also will be of interest to military scientists
studying new packaging and equipment.
SCOPE AND FORMAT
High-performance films can be defined in any of several ways: by volume,
price, performance, end-use markets, resin types, or a combination of two or
more of these characteristics.
For this study, high-performance films are defined as thin-gauge, mostly
extruded or solution cast-polymer sheets that generally meet at least one of
the following criteria: pricing above commodity film levels, continuous-use
temperature above commodity plastics, and end-uses requiring technical
capability and thickness at or below 30 mils. These are films that are used
primarily for their performance characteristics, not because of their price.
Emphasis is on those markets and products where opportunities are the greatest.
Therefore, the distinguishing characteristics of high-performance films are as
- Relatively expensive.
- Thin gauge (compared to sheet).
- Possess special performance characteristics.
High-performance films generally are fabricated (or converted) in relatively
small volumes (at least compared to commodity films). Much of their value is
created after the film is extruded.
The focal point is on high-performance resin chemistries, including the
- Polyolefin-based specialties.
- Polycarbonates (PCs).
- Polyimides (PIs).
- Cyclic olefin copolymers.
Basic polyolefins, such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), are not
included. Also excluded are polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polystyrene.
Specialty polyolefin-based films are included, particularly when multilayer
construction is involved. They are ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH), ionomers,
polyvinylidene chloride (PVdC) and polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH), and polymethyl
Fluoropolymer films are an important of this report. They include the
- Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).
- Polyvinyl fluoride (PVF).
- Fluorinated ethylene-propylene (FEP).
- Polychlorotrifluoroethylene (PCTFE).
- Polyvinylidene fluoride (PVdF).
- Perfluoroalkoxy (PFA).
- Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE).
- Ethylene chlorotrifluoroethylene (ECTFE).
Other resin chemistries are also covered, but in less detail because their
roles in films are not as well developed. They include polyethylene
naphthalate (PEN), liquid crystal polymers (LCPs), polysulfones,
polyetherimides (PEIs), polyetheretherketones (PEEKs) and benzocyclobutene
The geographic scope of this report is the U.S. market.
METHODOLOGY AND INFORMATION SOURCES
Both primary and secondary research methodologies were used in preparing this
study. Market professionals were interviewed, and extensive searches were made
of the literature and the Internet, including many of the leading trade
publications, as well as technical compendia, government publications and
information from trade and other associations.
Douglas A. Smock was the chief editor of Plastics World Magazine from 1986 to
1994 at Cahners Publishing Co./Reed Business Information (RBI).. He also
served as a senior editor of Modern Plastics at McGraw-Hill Publishing Co.,
associate publisher and editorial director of Modern Mold & Tooling at the
McGraw-Hill Publishing Co., chief editor of Purchasing Magazine at Reed
Business Information and senior technical editor of Design News at UBM Canon.
At RBI-US, Smock also served as cochairman of the corporate editorial board.
He is the coauthor of Straight to the Bottom Line and On-Demand Supply
Management, two leading books in the field of supply management. Smock has a
bachelor's degree in economics from Case Western Reserve University