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 lithium-ion batteries.
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.
Goals and objectives of this study include the following:
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.
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:
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 follows:
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 following:
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 pentene (PMP).
Fluoropolymer films are an important of this report. They include the following:
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 (BCB).
The geographic scope of this report is the U.S. market.
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 (Cleveland, Ohio).