US demand to rise 4.7% annually through 2018
US demand for silicones is forecast to climb 4.7 percent annually to $4.3 billion in 2018, with volume rising 3.2 percent per year to 900 million pounds. This will be an acceleration from the performance of the 2008-2013 period, spurred by improving economic conditions, rising manufactured goods output, and a strong rebound in construction activity. Ongoing technological developments and continued product innovation will also promote advances, as such improvements will further enhance the performance of silicones in a variety of applications. However, opportunities will be limited by market maturity, as well as the increasing tendency among users to regard silicones more as commodities than as specialty materials, which will restrict suppliers’ ability to raise prices, thus restraining overall value gains.
Silicone elastomers to pass fluids as leading type
Fluids and elastomers represent the two leading silicone product types, together accounting for more than 85 percent of total market value in 2013. Elastomers are projected to achieve the most rapid gains, overtaking fluids as the leading product type by 2018. Growth will be propelled by their widespread use in the rebounding construction sector, along with expanding opportunities in the medical field. Demand will further benefit from the increasing utilization of liquid silicone rubber in electronics, machinery, and medical markets due to its ease of processing, flexibility, and ability to form high precision parts. Silicone resins are also predicted to achieve healthy gains, led by renewed strength in the construction industry, where they are primarily employed in paint and coatings. Opportunities for silicone gels will stem from their use as protective encapsulants in high growth applications such as solar cells and light emitting diodes (LEDs). Moreover, silicone gels are widely used as the basis for breast implant products and will continue to gained share at the expense of their saline-filled counterparts.
Construction, medical markets to be fastest growing
The industrial sector represents the leading outlet for silicones. Within this segment, the motor vehicle market will continue to offer strong opportunities for growth through 2018, despite a notable deceleration from the rapid gains achieved between 2008 and 2013, when domestic vehicle production rates rebounded from low levels. Advances will be promoted by automaker efforts to improve vehicle safety and fuel efficiency, as well as consumer preferences for quieter cabins. Among other outlets, the construction market is forecast to achieve the most rapid gains, expanding at a near double digit annual pace due to a substantial turnaround in building construction activity and greater use of high-performance silicone-based adhesives, sealants, and coatings. The medical market will continue to provide outsized gains, with the nation’s aging population driving demand for medical equipment and the ongoing technological development of new products expanding the range of applications for silicones in this field.
More moderate growth is projected for consumer outlets, constrained by maturity in the cosmetic and toiletry and motor vehicle polish markets. Nevertheless, silicone emollients and conditioning agents will remain an important ingredient in a variety of personal care formulations due to their ability to significantly enhance the performance attributes of these products.