The global ultra-thin glass market size is expected to witness rapid growth over the forecast period. The product finds numerous applications in a variety of industries including electronics, solar, automotive, and construction. It has a high demand due to its characteristics, such as thermal and chemical stability, enhanced flatness, optical properties, weather resistance, and electrical insulation. Rising demand from smart devices, flat display panels, and solar panels is expected to open new opportunities for the market over the coming years. The product is widely utilized in smartphones as it can withstand the heat from high-performance processors. Global demand for smartphones was 1.47 billion units in 2017.
Samsung remained the leader with 317.3 million shipments. The wearables market is also gaining momentum over the past few years. Smartwatches are becoming popular and are witnessing increased share in the wearables industry. In the second quarter of 2017, the smartwatch shipments for Apple, Samsung, and Garmin were 3,400 thousand units, 800 thousand units, and 600 thousand units respectively. Thus, increased production of smartphones and smartwatches is likely to augment the growth of the ultra-thin glass industry. On the basis of process, the market can be segmented into float, fusion, and down-draw. The float process, also known as the Pilkington process, was invented by Alastair Pilkington.
The fusion process was invented by Stuart Dockerty and Clint Shay from Corning Inc., and the down draw process was developed by scientists in SCHOTT AG. On the basis of application, the market can be divided into display panels, semiconductors, solar mirrors, and others including automotive glazing and medical devices. The market has gained momentum since the introduction of flat panel displays. On the basis of end-use industry, the market can be categorized into electrical & electronics, automotive, solar, building & construction, and others. The electrical & electronics industry is a key consumer of the product. Manufacturers are increasing their production capacity to cater to rising demand across the globe.
For instance, in 2016 ALLVIA, expanded its capacity for manufacturing ultra-thin glass to address the growing demand from Through Silicon Via (TSV) markets. On the basis of geographic regions, the market is divided into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Central & South America, and Middle East & Africa. Asia Pacific is the key regional market owing to the presence of manufacturers of lenses and electronics. The region is expected to witness the fastest growth due to increasing demand for the product in electronics, construction, and automotive industries. Investors are seeking interest in the emerging economies of Asia Pacific on account of growing consumer base, improved infrastructure, and lower manufacturing costs.
For example, in 2014, AGC Inc. and NSG Group built new production facilities for ultra-thin glass in Thailand and Vietnam. In the recent past, CFG--Ha Long Industry Company Ltd. invested in construction of an ultra-thin tempered glass factory in Vietnam. The first phase of the factory is expected to be completed before 2022 and the second phase in 2027. By 2027, the expected production capacity of the factory is 1,200 tons per day. High manufacturing costs and raw material prices are the major restraints for the market growth. Raw materials include silica, soda ash, dolomite, and others. According to Nippon Sheet Glass Co. Ltd., soda ash accounts for 16% of batch weight in production, but it costs around 60% of the total batch.
Some of the major companies in ultra-thin glass market are Taiwan Glass Ind Corp.; Nippon Electric Glass Co., Ltd.; Corning, Inc.; AGC, Inc.; Luoyang Glass Co., Ltd.; and Emerge Glass. Building new production facilities and expansion of the existing capacities are the key strategy undertaken by most of these manufacturers to maintain competitive advantage over others. Luoyang Glass Co., Ltd. is a leading firm in the Chinese market due to its high production capacity and broad product portfolio. To cope with the increasing competition, the company invested in upgrading its ultra-thin electronic glass production line in 2017 to reach the annual production capacity of 15.5 million square meters.
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