Epoxy resins are thermosetting polymers which are known for their exceptional mechanical properties as well as their performance characteristics. These resins are produced by a chemical reaction known as curing. Curing process involves epoxides and other chemicals which are generally known as hardeners. Polyamines, phenolic compounds, etc. are some of the substances which can be used as hardeners.
Depending on the application, epoxy resins can be manufactured in a variety of grades. Further, plasticizers, fillers, additives, etc. can be added to achieve the desired characteristics in the final application. At present, there are over 50 different substances which can be classified as epoxy resins. To top that, the number of hardeners are available to transform epoxy characteristics, thus making these resins suitable for a variety of applications ranging from paints & coatings, composites, wind turbines, etc. to name a few.
The most widely used epoxy resins are manufactured by reacting epichlorohydrin with Bisphenol A, which produces a chemical substance known as Bisphenol A diglycidyl ether, commonly known as BADGE or DGEBA. BADGE-based resins are widely commercialized resins available in the market.
Epoxide number is used to determine the epoxide content in epoxy resins. Low molecular epoxy resins are ideally used for manufacturing glues, castings, etc., whereas high molecular epoxy resins are used for paints & coatings, powder coatings, etc. Most common applications today would have been difficult to manufacture without epoxies. Ability to alter their physical state from low viscosity liquid to a high melting point solid propels the demand for these materials in a number of day to day applications.
Epoxies are used in paints & coating industry for manufacturing protective and insulating coatings for vessels, satellite systems, spacecraft and aircraft. Owing to their strength, they find applications in the renewable energy sector for coating steel and to protect the structures for hydroelectric power stations.
In the wind energy sector, composites manufactured using epoxy resins and reinforcing fibres have become an essential component of large-sized windmill rotor blades. Epoxies are known to augment the strength-to-weight ratio of turbines’ structure, which makes it possible to manufacture longer blades.
Epoxy resins are also used to manufacture floorings. Public buildings such as hospitals, food processing plants require hygiene with utmost importance. Epoxy coatings are widely used to protect floors as strong cleaners can be used for cleaning purposes without damaging the floor. Also, floorings made from epoxy resins have inherent anti slip structure thus preventing accidents. Epoxies are used as sealants for domestic applications and provide strong and durable sealing.
Asia Pacific has observed highest epoxy resins demand in the world. Increasing demand for epoxy resins from paints & coatings and composite manufacturers is expected to foster the market growth in this region. Rapidly growing construction sector owing to rising population and demand for automobiles is expected to boost the epoxy resin demand.
North American market is likely to witness sluggish growth rates owing to moderately growing automotive and marine coating industries Europe epoxy resin market is mainly influenced by rising demand from composites.
Epoxy resin market is highly competitive due to the presence of a large number of industry participants. China is anticipated to emerge as the largest producer of epoxy resin owing to the abundant availability of raw material. China has over 100 epoxy resin manufacturers as well as raw material suppliers. This factor is anticipated to boost the production capacity in this region during the forecast period.
Forward integration allows industry players to efficiently alter the overall production process at minimum cost as the end-use product and epoxy resins are manufactured under one umbrella. Such level of integration enables these companies to focus on their core business and develop various products distinctive for specific applications.
The industry has observed various capacity expansions, mergers, and acquisition in the recent past. Nan Ya Plastics has become the largest epoxy manufacturer with the addition of 186 kilo tons plant in 2013. Olin Corporation entered the epoxy industry by acquiring Dow Chemical’s global epoxy business in 2015 and has now become a key player in the market.
While some of the companies focusing on capacity expansions and M&A activities, others are busy with joint ventures and R&D initiatives. In 2014, Cytec collaborated with Dralon GmBH to expand its polymer composites production capacity. BASF teamed up with Euroresins to develop epoxy based composites for wind turbine application.
Epoxy resins are important resources that secure modern living. They provide enormous benefits in their industrial and construction uses, thus extending the lifetimes of various types of structures in ever changing environments.
In-depth report on global epoxy resin market by Grand View Research: