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Thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) is called thenew type of green material to meet special requirements in innumerableapplications, in particular, from the automotive and consumer electronicsindustries. In view of the dominant demand of TPE in Asia Pacific, notorioussuppliers are expanding their production capacity in this region.


Thermoplastic olefin is expected to be the fastest-growing segment throughout 2018 to 2023.
Thermoplastic olefin is expected to be the fastest-growing segment throughout 2018 to 2023.

TPE is a third generation polymeric material which has numerous advantages such as higher speed, efficiency, and economy of processing over silicone rubber or any other thermoset polymers.

Global demand to rise with CAGR of 6.24%

Thanks to its high performance in many applications, the material has a rapid growth of demand in worldwide in recent years. According to Mordor Intelligence report, the global TPE market is expected to register a CAGR of 6.24% from 2018 to 2023.

This material serves the automotive industry in innumerable applications, some of which include the manufacturing of high-quality automotive instrument panels, wheel covers, dashboard components, pillar trim, door liners and handles, seat backs, and seat belt components, among others.

In 2017, automotive and transportation application segment dominated the global TPE market, with a market share of 41%. Increased automotive production and growth usage of TPE in the automotive industry are expected to drive the market for TPE through the forecast period.

In terms of product type, styrene block copolymers (TPE-s) conquered the global TPE market. However, the thermoplastic olefin (TPE-o) segment is expected to be the fastest-growing segment through the forecast period.

In 2017, Asia Pacific was the largest market for TPE, accounting for around 47% of the global market shares, according to the report. The region is also expected to be the fastest-growing market through the forecast period. This significant trend was also recognized by renowned exhibiting companies at CHINAPLAS 2018.

Automotive and E&E to be the main applications

The use of TPE has seen significant increases, helping business explore endless product application possibilities, innovate and remain competitive. More and more product developers and product designers choose to work with TPE because of its extraordinary mechanical properties, according to Roland Ritter, Director Asia Pacific at Kraiburg TPE.

The company believed that consumer spending on cars with aesthetic features and high quality parts is to stimulate TPE product demand, especially for Electro-mobility (E-mobility) and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

The company showcased at the CHINAPLAS 2018 its latest functional applications targeting the automotive, consumer electronics, packaging and medical sectors.

Two compounds highlighted at the show were new EPDM adhesion series and higher-end lifestyle TPE compound. The new EPDM adhesion series was designed for exterior, which offers short cooling times, low coefficient of friction and heat resistance up to 90°C.

For the higher-end lifestyle TPE compound, it features anti-skin irritation, scratch resistance, adhesion performance on technical thermoplastic, chemical resistance against sebum and sun screens, etc. Applications include smartphone cases, headphones, remote controls or VR headsets.

Apart from the automotive market, the consumer electronics industry will be the big focus. This is because the consumer electronic and electrical devices industries are using more TPE materials.

Capacity expansion to satisfy growing demand in Asia

As a unique material, TPE can take the form of a super-soft gel or a hard plastic like polypropylene, providing a high flexibility for engineers and designers. Stanley Teoh, Vice President/Managing Director – Asia Pacific at Americhem pointed out that the increasing demand for TPE is a result of the growing trend of using soft materials.

The company is adopting “one stop shop” strategy, so that customers can source all solutions in one place. “This is what makes Americhem especially valuable to partner with,” remarked Matthew Hellstern, CEO at Americhem.

In order to meet the growing global demand for soft-touch materials, especially in Asia, Americhem is expanding its operations at its Suzhou plant in China with a new, state-of-the-art extrusion line for soft polymer compounding.

Americhem has been supplying TPE from it US plant for the Asian market. When the new line is ready for commercial operation in Q3 2018, the company can provide faster service to its customers.

The plant is well equipped to handle all kinds of strand-handling systems, including waterbath, conveyor-belt and high-speed-intensive mixer, to provide effective mixing of all kinds of formulations.

This is the second expansion in three years for the facility in Suzhou Industrial Park which began operation in 2006.

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