The global market for Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPEs) is projected to reach US$22.4 billion by 2025, driven by the growing demand for soft touch and feel products ranging from toothbrushes, home appliances to automotive interiors. Soft-touch cushion grips are a key design flavor for a wide variety of consumer products. In addition to ergonomic functionality, soft-touch handles and panels enhance aesthetic appeal, and enable product differentiation by providing a surface feel, smoothness, silkiness and texture comparable with luxury products. The tactile qualities of soft-touch products additionally enable the product to be sold at a price premium. Against this background, TPEs also known as thermoplastic rubbers are poised to witness strong demand. A combination of plastic and rubber polymers, TPEs offer benefits such as superior aesthetics; easy colorability; easy processability similar to plastics; slip resistance; shock absorption; outstanding ozone resistance; soft texture; UV resistance; scratch resistance; superior weatherability; stretchability; longer and more durable material life; cost effective when compared to liquid silicone rubber; lightweight; flexibility and easy recyclability. Longer material life also means longer recycle times, lower energy consumption for manufacturing and less waste, all of which are valuable benefits in the current circular economy. A wide variety of TPEs are available in the market ranging from soft and jelly-like, hard, rigid, transparent, colored, glossy and matte. Popular types of TPE solutions available in the market include thermoplastic olefinic elastomer, thermoplastic polyester elastomer, thermoplastic vulcanisate, thermoplastic amide elastomer, and thermoplastic polyurethane elastomer.
With functionalities similar to vulcanized rubber, TPEs flaunt several uses that touch everyday lives of people just like rubber. From sports and leisure products such as ski boots, grips, ski poles, golf clubs, bicycle saddles, swimming fins; boots; toys; pencil grippers; household items like bowls, trays, toys, flowerpots, cushioning in orthopedic shoes to handles of exercise equipment, the application possibilities are endless. Soft-touch TPOs are rapidly replacing thermoformed PVC and slush-molded PVC supported by stringent environmental regulations curbing the use of plastics. A growing number of industrial applications are also opening up such as HVAC, automotive, oil and gas, mining, marine and medical. The automobile industry is emerging as the largest end-user supported by the growing trend of replacing commodity plastics with fire resistant TPEs. Focus on aesthetics is leading to increased use of soft-touch thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) in vehicle interiors such as instrument panel skins, seat backs, door trim, arm rests, handles, knobs airbag doors, and surface of the accelerator pedals. In the medical devices industry, TPE materials are growing in popularity as they allow for easy sterilization of instruments. TPEs also flaunt the potential to replace allergy causing latex. The United States and China represent large markets worldwide with a combined share of 46.6% of the market. China also ranks as the fastest growing market with a CAGR of 7.8% over the analysis period supported by the country’s manufacturing dominance and the ensuing demand for high quality TPEs as a ubiquitous raw material for production.
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