Global metal replacement market size is likely to witness sizable growth over 2021-2027, driven by the product’s ability to reduce weight, increase chemical resistance, and improve material performance. Likewise, the significant deployment of metal replacement polymers across varied end-use industries including aerospace will further drive product demand.
Metal replacement refers to the process of substituting metals with polymers. This procedure is gaining widespread prominence across industries due to the advent of high-performance composites and polymers with excellent mechanical properties and temperature resistance.
Increasing usage of polyphenylsulfone as an ideal metal replacement material in the medical sector is one of the prominent trends characterizing the metal replacement market outlook. This polymer can withstand continuous-use temperatures of up to 260°C and is highly resistant to chemicals and harsh disinfectants that are commonly used in hospitals. Furthermore, strong focus on light-weighting in the transport industry and the subsequent increase in metal replacement activities will also augment industry share.
On the basis of type, the composites segment is likely to exhibit a high growth rate through 2027. This is driven by the increasing applications of fiber-reinforced polymer composites in aircraft, owing to their unique mechanical, tribological, and electrical properties. Shifting preference from traditional materials like steel to composites due to design flexibility, high strength and stiffness, durability, and vibration damping properties will further amplify segmental growth.
Regionally, Europe is expected to emerge as a lucrative revenue pocket for the metal replacement market by 2027, on account of the strong presence of metal replacement manufacturers in the region. For example, Britain-based Victrex has designed its PEEK (polyether ether ketone) polymers as a metal replacement solution, to help meet the engineering requirements in various critical components. The regional industry growth will further be impelled by the escalating production of glass fiber reinforced plastics in the UK and Ireland.
The competitive landscape of the metal replacement industry comprises of companies such as Toray Industries, Jushi Group, BASF SE, Solvay S.A., Owens Corning, Celanese, and SGL Carbon, among others. Strategic product launches and mergers and acquisitions are among the prominent initiatives being employed by these market players to boost their product portfolio and geographical stance across the global market.
For instance, Celanese suggested the replacement of metal parts used in robots with polymers or thermoplastics in April 2021. This recommendation was made with an aim to ensure operational cost savings and reduce downtime for robot manufacturers through the usage of high-performance polymer parts.
In December 2020, Celanese inked a memorandum of understanding with Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company. The MOU was signed to modernize Korea Engineering Plastics, a joint venture between MGC, Celanese and Mitsubishi Corp, that was formed to produce polyoxymethylene (POM). Known for its hardness, creep resistance and dimensional stability, this thermoplastic can be used as a replacement for metal parts.
COVID-19 Pandemic Impact on Metal Replacement Market Trends:
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increase in supply chain disruptions across various industrial sectors, including aerospace. For example, Gurit, a Switzerland-based developer of advanced composite materials, extended the closure of its Zullwil facility into 2020. This prolonged shutdown of its facility was due to the drop in demand for aerospace composites amid the pandemic. This declining composite production has, in turn, created an impact on the metal replacement industry over the past months.
However, various consulting companies worldwide have been placing high emphasis on helping the composites industry maintain steady growth amid the crisis. For instance, AMAC, an industrial and business consulting company, and Alpha Executive Advisory signed a cooperation agreement. The deal was inked to jointly provide advisory services in business coaching, transformation, acquisitions and divestitures, and crisis management to the composites sector in response to the pandemic. These aforementioned factors, alongside the gradual ease in lockdown restrictions, may thus aid metal replacement industry recovery over the foreseeable future.