The global ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) market size was USD 1.12 billion in 2014. UHMWPE is widely used for joint replacement surgery in the medical industry which forms one of the key end-use industries for the plastic. Growing geriatric population in Europe, Japan, and the U.S. has prompted the need for join replacements in these regions.
Favorable properties of conventional polymers for numerous application across key end-use industries such as automotive, healthcare, defense, construction, sports equipment, and shipbuilding has prompted its demand in the recent past. These properties include high abrasion resistance, superior impact strength, low reactivity to chemicals & additives, higher flexibility, and low friction coefficient.
UHMWPE is being increasingly accepted across the defense industry for personal protective equipment and anti-ballistic applications. Several government initiatives to encourage usage over other polymers for such applications are expected to develop its market. U.S. military invested in R&D to improve personal protective equipment such as helmets and body armor.
Joint replacement surgeries for knees and hips have witnessed rapid uptrend over the last five years. A shift in trend wherein people aged at 45-60 years are increasingly opting for joint replacement surgeries has been observed in the recent past. Technological advancements have resulted in better prosthetics, longer lifespan and more comfort for the patients.
Higher price compared to other polymers such as polypropylene, PVC, LDPE, and polystyrene is anticipated to cause major hindrance to growth. Volatile oil & gas prices are also expected to the profit margins of UHMWPE industry participants.
U.S. UHMWPE market volume by application, 2012-2022, (Kilo Tons)
Medical grade & prosthetics dominated the application segment in the global market. This application accounted for over 28% of the global demand in 2014 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.5% from 2015 to 2022.
UHMWPE fibers find applications in several end-use industries such as defense, sports equipment, construction, and healthcare. Increasing construction spending, sports events, and growing healthcare industry is expected to drive the overall consumption in the near future. Demand in fiber applications is expected to witness a CAGR of 11.6% from 2015 to 2022 and account for over 11% of the total revenue share by 2022.
Demand in batteries accounted for over 20% in 2014 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.3% from 2015 to 2022. Growing end-use industries such as automotive and electrical & electronics are expected to benefit the overall growth.
North America UHMWPE market dominated the global industry in the recent past and accounted for over 40% of the market share in 2014. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 10% over the next seven years. Asia Pacific is expected to witness the most significant growth in its market size over the next seven years.
Rapid industrialization and urbanization coupled with rising population in countries such as China, India, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam are projected to aid the regional market development. Central & South America promises significant growth over the forecast period. The region is expected to account for over 3% of the global consumption.
Europe is expected to witness sluggish growth owing to end-use industry saturation. The region is expected to witness moderate growth over the next seven years. However, government initiatives impacting industries such as defense, automotive, construction and healthcare are presumed to have a positive influence on the overall industry growth.
Braskem, Celanese Corporation, and LyondellBasell dominated the global UHMWPE market share, accounting for over 75% in 2014. Frequent acquisitions were witnessed over the past five years. These strategies are expected to improve product portfolio and increase production capacity to meet the rapidly growing demand, particularly from the emerging regions.
Companies are investing heavily in R&D initiatives to develop superior products such as longer lasting prosthetics and lightweight personal protective equipment. Such initiatives offer ample opportunities for the existing as well as new industry entrants over the forecast period.
In 2014, Celanese Corporation acquired Cool Polymers as well as invested in a technological & commercial center in Mexico in order to strengthen its presence in Latin America. While Braskem announced its plan to build a UHMWPE plant in Texas to increase its production capacity and compliment its current production from Brazil.
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