Polyurethanes have become an ideal choice in a slew of end-use applications, including automotive, construction and footwear. Notably, the abrasion resistance ability has made polyurethanes highly compelling even at low temperatures.
When compared to rubber and plate, polyurethanes have an edge in the wake of superior load bearing, high cut & tear resistance and corrosion resistance. Of late, construction companies have exhibited increased traction for polyurethanes as demand for noise reduction and maintaining constant temperature in residential and commercial spaces continue to surge.
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According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), more than half of the energy use (56%) in a typical U.S. home is attributed to heating and cooling, signifying a robust business outlook. Global Market Insights, Inc., anticipates polyurethanes market size to gain substantial ground by 2026.
PU becomes an ideal choice in automotive sector
Prevalent use of thermosetting polymer in automotive sector in the manufacturing of rigid foam insulation panels, high-resilience foam seating, headliners and B-pillars has augured well for stakeholders eyeing to expand their portfolio in untapped areas.
With passenger cars gaining traction, polyurethanes have become the ideal choice to keep up with the environment, affordability and safety facets. Lately, interior acoustic design of a vehicle has gained impetus with PU widely setting the tone to reduce and insulate interior sounds.
Expanding penetration of PU in electric vehicles in roofs, hoods, cladding has boosted the confidence of stakeholders. Amidst environmental concern, leading companies have shown inclination for polyurethanes to boost recyclability. Besides, durability factor has instilled confidence among manufacturers for PU bolsters stiffness levels and crash performance.
Mega-trend stemming from footwears
With comfort, fashion, elegance and quality in footwear industry coming to the fore, leading companies are likely to tick all the boxes with soaring trend for polyurethanes. In a bid to create state-of-the-art footwear solutions, investment in polyurethanes will help leading companies unlock growth potentials and keep up with the demand for shoes which are lighter, slip resistant and have more energy return.
Notable demand for polyurethanes in sports performance, casual shoes and work and safety shoes will further the polyurethanes business trend. To put things in perspective, some of the factors such as durability and tremendous running properties have set the trend for polyurethanes in footwear landscape.
In line with the trend, leading companies are boosting their business strategies to gain a competitive edge in polyurethanes industry. For instance, Huntsman rolled out footwear PU systems for safety and military shoe sector in February 2020. Meanwhile in August 2020, BASF opened its first footwear innovation center in Taiwan, a major hub in APAC.
Growth opportunities in polyurethane coatings
Mobility trends such as EVs, sustainability and rigorous regulations on VOC emissions have made polyurethanes a revenue generating business. Some of the factors such as lower rejection rate, tremendous flow properties and energy return properties have made polyurethanes highly popular among end-markets.
In recent years, traction for polyurethane coatings which combine high quality appearance with high mechanical performance is expected to provide potential growth opportunities for hardeners for 2K coatings and resin synthesis.
Polyurethane coatings will remain instrumental to resist environmental impacts, including UV-irradiation; and resistance towards scratches in automotive industry. Leading companies will look to reduce curing cycles at less emitted VOCs and lower temperatures.
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Potential health problem to derail growth
Despite growing penetration of polyurethanes in automotive, footwear and coatings, there are real and perceived challenges. Potential health problems and short life may derail the industry growth.
Polyurethanes have seamlessly become an invaluable part of end-users, including automotive and footwear. PU is likely to become an essential part of automotive design and footwear for sustainable and performance solutions. Versatility of PU to create flexible and rigid foams, coatings, adhesives and sealants will play a pivotal role in fueling megatrends for polyurethanes.