Global ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene market is expected to gain significant traction over 2021-2027, considering the widespread adoption of UHMW polyethylene plastics in industrial applications that require chemical resistance, low friction, and durability. Additionally, the growing adoption of this thermoplastic in the aerospace and defense industry, owing to its high impact strength, outstanding abrasion resistance, and other attributes, will also drive industry demand. Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene refers to a semi-crystalline material that can efficiently retain its shape within the approved temperature range of up to 180° F. The material offers performance properties enabling it to be effectively used in a range of applications, including marine accessories, food handling materials, and packaging.
Rapid increase in vehicle exports and sales, particularly in the U.S., is one of the prominent factors characterizing ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene market trends over 2021-2027. According to data from Zippia, the automobile sector in the United States registered sales of nearly 14,471,800 million light truck vehicles and cars in 2020. The increased automotive sales have stimulated industry dynamics, given the significant deployment of UHMWPE in the fabrication of bearings and other automotive components. Likewise, the rising application scope of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene fibers in medical products like orthopedic implants, due to their wear resistance and improved mechanical properties, will also amplify industry growth in the coming years.
Based on form, the ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene market from the films segment is anticipated to exhibit a high growth rate through 2027. Growth from the segment is driven by rising awareness about the benefits of UHMW polyethylene film tapes, such as high resistance from oil, abrasion, and other solvents. In addition, the expansion of the packaging sector in developing economies will further drive industry share, given the usage of UHMWPE in making thin gauge films.
Europe ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene market will account for a commendable share by 2027, as a result of the reopening of car dealerships after COVID-19-induced lockdowns and mounting healthcare spending. According to data from Reuters, British new car sales increased by above 3,000% in April 2021. Factors such as these, alongside the increasing sales of electric vehicles, will augment the product demand, given the extensive adoption of UHMWPE in engineered materials like lithium-ion battery separators for EVs.
Some major players operating in the global ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene market include Mitsui Chemicals, Inc., Royal DSM, Celanese Corporation, Teijin Aramid B.V., and Honeywell International, among others. These market players are focusing on varied initiatives such as new product launches, partnerships, and business expansions to strengthen their market presence globally.
For instance, in March 2021, Celanese Corporation announced plans to boost its GUR UHMW polyethylene production capacity in Europe, with an objective to expand its portfolio of high-value GUR engineered materials. Likewise, in January 2020, Royal DSM entered a collaboration deal with Clariter to pursue a next-gen chemical recycling solution for various products based on Dyneema, DSM’s UHMWPE fiber, to ensure a sustainable future.
In light of the novel coronavirus pandemic, almost every industrial sector, including transportation and logistics, has been adversely impacted. Disruptions in the supply chain have posed challenges to the logistics firms in terms of economic growth, job creation, and competitiveness, mainly due to the decline in trade and commerce. Situations such as these could hinder the ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene industry outlook, given the emergence of the transportation sector as a significant end-user of UHMW polyethylene products.
However, the strong scope of UHMW polyethylene in military & defense applications may aid in industry recovery, given the significant rise in military spending during the pandemic. As per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, global military expenditure surged to $1,981 billion in 2020, indicating an increase of 2.6% from 2019. As UHMW polyethylene fibers are widely used in applications such as body armor, this increase may enhance industry demand over the foreseeable future.