Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA) is a thermoplastic polymer of Methyl Methacrylate (MMA). It is a clear, strong and lightweight plastic generally used as a substitute to glass due to its energy efficiency and weather resistance. It is available in two grades and can be classified as optical and general purpose grades based on its usage. PMMA is manufactured in four forms including extruded sheet, pellets or resins, beads (powder) and cell cast sheets and blocks. It has wide usage in various industries such as electronics, construction, signs and displays, furniture and interiors, solar panels, sanitary ware fashion and apparel, lighting and decorative, medical and healthcare among others. Growth in key end-use applications such as signs and displays, electronics and automotive industries is expected to boost the global PMMA demand over the next six years. These industrial sectors have been witnessing rapid growth, especially in emerging markets such as Asia Pacific and Latin America, thus fuelling the PMMA demand. However, volatile raw material prices of petrochemicals are expected to be a key issue for market participants. In order to reduce reliance on conventional (petroleum derived) PMMA, industry has shifted its focus towards developing its bio-based alternatives. Bio-based PMMA is expected to catch up in the near future owing to their eco friendly characteristics and secure raw material supply.
Arkema, in collaboration with Natureworks has developed an alloy of PMMA with 25% Poly-lactic acid (PLA), a renewable resin. The product will be launched under the brand Plexiglas/Altuglas RNew. This product provides lowered carbon footprint and possesses better impact strength and chemical resistance. In addition, Mitsubishi Rayon Company and Evonik separately are working towards producing bio-based PMMA using green building blocks like Methacrylic acid and Itaconic acid by fermentation of sugars. These initiatives are at the R&D stage and not yet introduced for commercial production. This process may help reduce dependability on petrochemicals for production of PMMA, thus, reducing the carbon footprint as well.
Key products analyzed and reported in this study include extruded sheets; cell cast sheets and blocks, pellets and beads. Extruded sheets emerged as the leading PMMA product consumed worldwide and accounted for over 55% of total PMMA volume in 2012. Extruded PMMA sheets are widely used in manufacturing LED screens for electronic devices, facades in buildings, solar panels, decorative interiors, and signs and displays. Rapid development of the LED screens and the signs & display segment mainly in Asia Pacific is expected to drive the market for PMMA extruded sheets over the next six years. Extruded sheets were followed by pellets which accounted for over 25% of total market volume in 2012. PMMA pellets are the basic form, which can be further processed for a variety of applications. They can be molded for use in signs and display, automotive panels, medical and healthcare, fashion apparels, etc. PMMA beads or PMMA powder is expected to be the fastest growing product of PMMA, at an estimated CAGR of 7% from 2013 to 2020. PMMA beads find utility in coatings and emulsions and as additives to other copolymers. They are added as coloring agents and impart a glossy look to the emulsion. They also act as strengthening agents in some application.
Global PMMA market volume share, by product, 2012
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Key application markets analyzed and reported in this study include signs and display, construction, electronics, automotive and transportation, and others (including medical and healthcare, coatings and emulsions, furniture and design, solar panels and sanitary ware). Signs & display emerged as the leading application segment for PMMA and accounted for over 35% of total volume in 2012. It is utilized in visual signage and displays for marketing communication. The variety of color available in PMMA makes it a preferred option for signs. Its optical properties come in good use at point-of-sale displays. It can be easily molded into desired shapes and sizes. Additionally, properties such as high weather resistance, bright color, energy efficiency and light weight help user exhibit attractive outdoor signs. Signs & display was followed by construction which accounted for 21% of total market volume in 2012. However, electronics is expected to be fastest growing market for PMMA at an estimated CAGR of 7.7% from 2013 to 2020. Optical grade PMMA is utilized for LED screens used in a variety of electronic equipment. Growth of electronics industry in China, Taiwan and South Korea is expected to drive the demand for PMMA in electronics industry.
Asia Pacific maintains a huge lead in the global demand for PMMA over other regions including North America and Europe owing to growth of major end use industries mainly in China and India. Asia Pacific accounted for over 65% of total market volume in 2012. Asia Pacific is the hub for manufacturing LED flat screens and LED TVs and growing demand for PMMA in manufacturing LED panels is expected to further boost the demand for PMMA in the region owing to which, Asia Pacific is expected to be the fastest growing market for PMMA at an estimated CAGR of 7.3% from 2013 to 2020. Cheap production cost coupled with proximity to the market has made Asia Pacific a preferred location for manufacturing facilities. After the recession in 2008, market players have added and/or shifted their production facilities to Asia, especially to China. Asia Pacific was followed by Europe which accounted for 16% of total market volume in 2012. In early 2009, PMMA demand in Europe declined significantly due to the economic downturn. Additionally, the recent Euro zone crisis affected the construction market. However, with recovery in the global economy and revival in demand for PMMA products, the regional market is likely to perform well over the next six years. North American market for PMMA is expected to reach USD 1.47 billion by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 4.8% from 2013 to 2020.
Global market for PMMA is highly concentrated as top four manufacturers including Altuglas International, Evonik SA, Chi Mei Corporation and Mitsubishi Rayon accounting for over 70% of the total PMMA production. Major manufacturers of PMMA are based out of Asia Pacific especially China owing to flexible regulations in the region. Additionally, entry barriers for new entrants are high due to significant capital investments and product innovation.