Microcellular plastic consists of micropores in the polymer matrix where the pore size is less than 100 micrometer in size. This new generation of plastics was invented in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1980s. Microcellular plastics have unique properties that separate them from conventional plastics. They have low residual stress, shorter cycle times, and less material consumption. In terms of appearance, microcellular plastics are extremely tough to distinguish from conventional plastics as the structure is very closely packed.
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Microcellular plastics have improved mechanical properties as compared to conventional plastics. These are light in weight and possess several useful properties such as thermal insulation, selective light transmission and diffusion, sound insulation, filtration, cushioning, energy absorption, and tissue engineering scaffolds. Key applications of microcellular plastics include construction, food packaging, healthcare, electronics, transportation, and toys.
Microcellular plastics are biodegradable and have sustainable properties, but their actual commercial utilization is very low due to inferior material properties, higher material cost, and limited number of processing units. Rising demand for high performance materials in various end-user industries is expected to boost the market for microcellular plastics globally during the forecast period. Microcellular plastics are believed to be an ideal replacement for conventional plastics as they are biodegradable, but their production on a large scale has been restrained by extremely high costs. The production process of microcellular plastics is much more compatible with the environment as against conventional plastics as conventional plastics use large number of toxic chemicals during its production.
Increasing demand for plastics in food packaging and healthcare segments is likely to drive demand for microcellular plastics during the forecast period. Plastic consumption in the electronics industry has witnessed substantial growth during the past few years. This is expected to augment the market for microcellular plastics. Microcellular plastics are also used in scaffolding for construction. Scaffolding is the temporary structure created during construction to support the work crew. Hence, the rapidly growing construction market is anticipated to bolster demand for microcellular plastics during the forecast period. Transportation is projected to be another key factor driving the microcellular plastic market due to growth in the automotive industry across the globe.
North America is estimated to be the largest market for microcellular plastics, accounting for substantial share of the global demand. Growing research and development activities related to microcellular plastic production by major market players has primarily driven the market in North America. Additionally, rising demand for high-performance plastics in industries such as healthcare and transportation is anticipated to boost demand for microcellular plastics in the region. In terms of region, Europe is likely to be the second-largest market for microcellular plastics. End-user applications such as food packaging, transportation, and healthcare are expected to drive the microcellular plastic market in the region. Europe boasts of presence of major automotive OEMs. This, in turn, is estimated to drive demand for microcellular plastics in the region.
The market in Asia Pacific is anticipated to witness extensive growth during the next few years due to increasing demand for microcellular plastics in applications such as construction and transportation. Furthermore, presence of growing economies such as China and India is anticipated to fuel the market due to growing industrial base in the region. Strongdemand from end-user industries in Latin America is predominantly driven by growing construction industry in the region. Hence, growth in the microcellular plastic market in Latin America is expected to be steady during the forecast period. A similar trend is anticipated in the market in the Middle East and Africa, especially in growing economies such as South Africa and countries in GCC.
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Some of the major players operating in the microcellular plastics market include MicroGREEN Polymers, Inc., Horizon Plastics International Inc., Sealed Air, Lavergne Performance Compounds, and Ingenia Polymers Corp. with various medium-scale operatives operating across the market.
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