Polyamide-Imide: Shifting trend towards lightweight materials in automotive industry

Industry : Plastics, Polymers & Resins    

Polyamide-imide is categorized as a product with high price and low market penetration among other high performance polymers. Raw material procurement and technology involve high costs to the manufacturers. Major raw materials such as n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP), trimellitic acid anhydride (TMA), and isocyanates are derived by solvent recovery process from hydrocarbons. High cost involved in manufacturing these components has negatively influenced the extensive scale manufacturing of polyamide-imide across various regions.

Although the manufacturers mark a high performance plastic such as polyamide-imide with high pricing, it is a cost effective solution as compared to frequent maintenance of metallic components. Until recent times, most of the auto components were manufactured using steel as the major material. However, steel is increasingly replaced by plastic alternatives in a bid to reduce overall vehicle weight.

Inherent characteristics of molded plastics have made them broadly used in automotive and aircraft industries. New product designs for rotor blades in aircrafts and automotive parts for enhancing driving dynamics is a major focus for these industries. Usage of carbon reinforced polyamide-imide and composites instead of steel and aluminum is a major trend towards metal replacement.

Lightweight plastics with high temperature resistance such as polyamide-imide offer ample opportunity for new car designs thereby enabling premium OEMs to gain competitive edge with product differentiation. Replacing traditional steel with thermoplastic moldings is a major strategy adopted by the auto makers. Lightweight components tend to reduce overall transportation cost thereby minimizing the capital allotted for logistics.

Aerospace industry was a major consumer of PAI resins during the 1980s. However, the chemical and mechanical strength of polyamide-imidehavesteered demand in other industries such as automotive and power & energy sectors. Owing to its enhanced resilience to mechanical wear & tear and prolonged exposure to high temperature environments such as engines, compressors, and pumps have contributed to positive growth of polyamide-imide resins demand over the past few years.

The automotive industry has witnessed shifting trend towards rapid manufacturing for high-volume cars and gaining efficiency in lead time. This, in turn, necessitates the significant R&D investments for developing prototypes that test the efficiency of finished components. 3D prototyping holds immense potential for high temperature plastics such as polyamide-imide that can be molded into components for medical, aerospace, and automotive industries.

Another major application of polyamide-imide includes wire enameling and fibers. Polyamide-imide demand for wire enamels has gained prominence in electrical and electronics industry owing to its enhanced insulation properties. Most commonly used PAI fiber is Kermel, a meta-aramid fiber that finds significance in industrial protective clothing. The fiber offers enhanced resistance against high temperature and fire. Major markets for this segment include fire-fighters, army, police forces, and industrial sectors such as gas utilities, petrochemical, and energy & power.

Growing demand for polyamide-imide molding resins in automotive and aerospace applications can be attributed to shifting demand towards light-weight high performance materials. Adoption of new technologies such as polymer matrix composites and additives has gained momentum in the UK which is positioned as one of the major countries in aerospace sector.

With recent economic downturn in China coupled with sluggish growth in various countries of Europe has influenced the automotive industry in these regions. In addition, ongoing contraction of automotive industry in Brazil, and Russia has also contributed to conservative growth of the industry. However, various automakers in North America including Toyota, BMW, Hyundai, General Motors, and Volkswagen had announced expansion plans in 2015. This initiative is expected to raise the automotive production by almost 50% through 2021.

Companies such as Elantas, Freudenberg, and Drake Plastics are few of the major consumers of PAI based applications. While Elantas caters its wire enameling portfolio to electronics and power & energy sectors, Freudenberg is focused on supplying automotive components made from PAI resins. Drake Plastics utilizes 3D technology to offer PAI molded prototypes.

The polyamide-imide industry is highly consolidated with handful of global manufacturers. However, distributors such as Boedeker, Emco Industrial Plastics, SD Plastics, Aquarius Plastics, and Lehigh Valley Plastics are spread across the five continents for supplying major brands such as Tecator, Torlon, Duratron, Kermel, and SR series.

  In-depth report on global polyamide-imide (PAI) market by Grand View Research:

http://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/polyamide-imide-pai-market

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