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Keywords of this article:  injection molding 
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The demand of polymethyl methacrylate(PMMA) is increasing across several industries owing to its inherent  advantageous characteristics, including high thermal and chemical resistance,high durability, low smoke emission and excellent abrasion resistance. As such,the material continues to have new applications arising.

PMMA has superior properties, including high thermal and chemical resistance, durability, etc.
PMMA has superior properties, including high thermal and chemical resistance, durability, etc.

PMMA, also called “acrylic glass”, is a synthetic resin produced from the polymerization of methyl methacrylate. Thanks to its properties which are far superior to those of glass, it is an exceptional material used in a wide range of industrial sectors such as LED lighting, automotive, aviation, construction, etc.

The market size of PMMA is projected to reach US$5.56 billion by 2021, registering a CAGR of 4.7% during the forecast period, according to a report by MarketsandMarkets.

The signs and display segment accounts for the largest share of the PMMA market. This is due to the favorable properties such as high strength, durability, resistance to chemicals and weathering, and ease of processing, which make them suitable for making advertising boards, display boards, signage, etc.

Meanwhile, electronics is the fastest-growing segment of the PMMA market. Increasing growth in this sector has paved the demand of PMMA for various applications such as appliances parts, LED/LCD screens, laptop & mobile phone screen, touch screens, and cover panels.

PMMA in beads form is expected to witness the fastest growth in the PMMA market. Their demand is increasing due to the increasing demand for various high-performance plastics.

Optimizing light distribution for LED systems
 High-performance LED floodlights by the Osram subsidiary Siteco use PLEXIGLAS optics for efficient illumination of sports facilities. (Photo: Osram)
The uniform and energy-efficient illumination of a large area is a complex task with different solutions depending on the situation. Siteco Beleuchtungstechnik GmbH, the Osram subsidiary, has launched the Floodlight 20 LED system to solve this task.

Recognized by iF Design Award, the system stands out for its high flexibility and can be fitted with 15 different matching LED/lens systems.

The special optics, which was developed by Siteco in-house and made of PLEXIGLAS via an injection molding process, ensures optimal light distribution for different LED/lens systems.

The brand-name PMMA by Evonik has outstanding light transmitting properties and enables precise image accuracy with the sophisticated lens design.

The material is well suited for various climatic conditions encountered in sports facilities. In addition, the LED technology stands out for its low energy consumption. The system reduces the light pollution above athletic facilities and enables more efficient and homogeneous illumination than its predecessors.

Adding values for lighting and design of automobiles

The massive demand in the automotive sector has triggered the PMMA market to grow. LED lighting of automotive is one of the examples. Earlier this year, Polyscope introduced a new heat booster for PMMA which can be used for the LED lighting in automobiles.

Peugeot 3008 SUV.In the last few years, we mainly sold heat booster for ABS in Asia. This year we introduce a new heat booster for PMMA. This heat booster can help to increase the heat-resistance of the PMMA for 5 -10 degrees, but it still keeps the transparency of PMMA,” said Ferdi Faas, business unit director of Polyscope. “With our solution, manufacturers can make a high-heat resistance PMMA with good transparency.”

A new application of LED lighting in automotive segment can be found on the curved Hella taillights on Opel’s Crossland X SUV.

Crossland X is the first model of Opel to sport a newly developed LED taillight made by lighting specialist Hella. The taillights act as an interface between the trunk lid and roof lines, making the brand’s signature double-curve motif clearly visible along both components.

The double-curve motif is the dominant design element of the LED taillight recently developed by Hella. When lit, its arrow-like shape is a uniform red, but even when the lights are off, the curved lines are still easy to see. The effect is the result of light guides made from a newly modified PLEXIGLAS PMMA.

As introduced, the application is a combination of light-diffusing additives with the signal color red. PLEXIGLAS 8N 3V219 disperses light more evenly than other molding compounds, making it even better for use with LEDs.

This customized PLEXIGLAS specialty molding compound allows taillight covers to be installed more closely to the LEDs without resulting in hotspots. It means the taillight as a whole can be much flatter and, as a result, take up less space in the body of the car.

At the same time, PMMA also provides new design possibilities to automobiles. The door pillars of the award-winning Peugeot 3008 are adorned with profiled parts made of PMMA acrylic resin supplied by Altuglas International, an Arkema subsidiary.

The Peugeot 3008 is named “Car of the Year” at the Geneva motor show in March 2017, acclaimed by the Association française de la presse automobile (AFPA) and crowned the most eco-friendly SUV with an Auto Environment MAAF award.

The selected grade, Altuglas HT 121, offers strong resistance to temperature, UV and surface scratching. It is a special grade of PMMA developed by Altuglas International that forms part of the car’s modern, robust but sleek look.

And because of its UV resistance, the resin does not need any post-molding protective varnish. The processing is thus easier, faster and more economical.

Meeting stringent requirements of aviation

Aircraft construction materials have always to meet the most stringent requirements, whether for huge commercial airliners or small sailplanes.

Evonik’s Weiterstadt plant is now underway for the certification in accordance with Mil P-25690 for the North American market and EN 4366 for the European market. The first of the necessary tests have already successfully passed.

Since the end of 2017, the plant has commenced the production of large stretched PMMA sheets. With 5.4 meters long and 3.7 meters wide, the PMMMA sheet is one of the largest formats available worldwide.

At the same time, the first partners in the aviation industry are already receiving samples. This enables them to verify for themselves the advantages of the large-format PMMA sheets. These include – in addition to the increased design options - highly efficient production processes and reduced offcut quantities.

Compared with cast PMMA materials, stretched PMMA sheets display improved impact resistance and higher chemical resistance, meeting the extremely high requirements of the aviation industry.

The market for stretched aviation materials is showing healthy growth but features limited capacities on the supplier side. With the new plant, Evonik’s Performance Materials Segment is now positioned as a full-service supplier of cast and stretched PMMA sheets for the aviation industry.

Enhancing durability of constructions

In the construction industry, durability is one of the major concerns of house builders. Surface upgrading with PMMA molding compound protected the new GEALAN-KUBUS window and balcony door system against all kinds of weather, and enabled modern building design.

GEALAN-KUBUS gives the impression of being almost frameless on the inside of the room, and, provides a rectangular shape and individually colored on the outside. The window is given a bright pop of color and is intrinsically resistant to UV light and weathering, keeping its high-class appearance in the long term.

The profiles for windows and balcony doors are co-extruded. The white polyvinyl chloride (PVC) base, as the substrate material, is permanently fused with a colored layer of PMMA molding compound in just one production step. By permanently fusing the colored layer with the substrate, giving it a hard surface, any flaking or cracking can be prevented.

The PMMA layer is about 0.5mm thick, thicker than any coat of paint and scratch-resistant to boot. It is hard-wearing and chemical resistant which both are the key factors given that windows are cleaned countless times with a variety of agents during their service life.

Global producers call for expansion

In order to meet the rocketing demand of PMMA market, the global leading producers have started new expansion projects as well as extended distribution network all over the world.
Evonik announced the official start-up of its new multi-layer coextrusion plant for PMMA flat films.
In early 2018, in order to increase the production capacity in the US, Evonik started the construction of an additional line for compounding its ACRYLITE trademarked PMMA at its site in Osceola, Arkansas.

The expansion, which is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2019, will nearly double the production capacity of the Methacrylates Business Line for the specialty molding compounds produced there.

Moreover, in November 2018, Evonik announced the official start-up of its new multi-layer coextrusion plant for PMMA flat films, following mechanical completion of the double-digit million facility in Weiterstadt, Germany.

Meanwhile, Wanhua Chemical(萬华化学), a Chinese leading TPU producer and polycarbonate producer, had invested in establishing an industrial park at Yantai city in eastern China's Shandong province.
Romeo De Castro, Marketing Director of VAMP TECH spa.
The facility for producing PMMA started operation in first half of this year, with production capacity of 80,000 tons of ultra-optical grade PMMA, and its output value can reach RMB2 billion per year.

Suzhou Double Elephant(苏州双象)is one of the largest PMMA manufacturers in China. The company recently signed new distribution agreement with Italian thermoplastic based compounder VAMP TECH.

With the agreement that came into force on July 1, VAMP TECH imports the Chinese company’s PMMA in Europe.

Romeo De Castro, Marketing Director of VAMP TECH spa, explained: “In the past years, there was a shortage of supply of PMMA in Europe, and we see opportunity to distribute PMMA not produced in Europe.”

VAMP TECH has been distributing PMMA in Italy from the most important European producers since the beginning. By partnering with Suzhou Double Elephant, the company foresees the possibility to enlarge its distribution business activity to other markets outside Italy.

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