Polymer foam is a mixture of solid and gas phases of a polymer. During fabrication of polymer foams, a polymer matrix is formed with the presence of air bubbles or air tunnels in it, which results in a structure called closed-cell foam or open-cell foam. Closed-cell foams offer properties such as rigidity and lower permeability. These, in turn, lead to better insulation properties. In addition, closed-cell foams are excellent sound absorbers and they have high resistance to heat flow, also called R-value. Open-cell polymer foams are flexible foams. They are effective as sound barriers in normal-noise frequency ranges and they provide better absorption. Superior properties of closed-cell foams compared to those of open-cell foams include strength, high resistance to heat flow, and resistance to leakage of air or water vapor.
Polymer foams are primarily applied in the construction sector. These are used for insulation of building components such as roofs, doors, sheathing, foundations, and as sealants for windows and doors. Polymer foams are also utilized in the manufacture of polyurethane molding and decorative wood alternatives. Owing to their high energy efficiency, better-performance polymer foams help by offering higher insulation at low temperatures in order to maintain the desired temperature of products. With growing awareness about development of eco-friendly alternatives for packaging applications, manufacturers of polymer foams have developed polystyrene foam, which is exempted from VOC regulations. Polystyrene foams are used to manufacture containers such as plates, cups, meat trays, egg cartons, and fast-food boxes.
Rise in Demand from Building & Construction Sector to Propel Polymer Foams Market
Growth of the global polymer foams market can be ascribed to rise in the demand for insulated foams in the building & construction industry. Rise in the demand for energy-efficient facade systems and strict environmental regulations are likely to augment the global market for polymer foams in the near future. Additionally, rise in population has resulted in increase in transit of people from rural areas to urban areas. This, in turn, is likely to drive the need for development of infrastructure facilities across the globe in the near future. This factor is projected to fuel the demand for energy-efficient buildings worldwide in the near future.
Leading Players Focusing on Geographical Expansion
Key manufacturers operating in the global polymer foams market include BASF SE, Covestro AG, Sealed Air Corporation, Recticel NV, Total S.A., DowDuPont Inc., SABIC, Rogers Corporation, and Zotefoams PLC. These players are engaged in collaborations, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), geographical expansion, and launch of new products. For instance, on August 2, 2018, Sealed Air Corporation expanded its product portfolio with the acquisition of AFP, Inc., a leading producer of foam, corrugated, molded pulp and wood packaging solutions. The acquisition is estimated to strengthen the former’s position in industries such as electronics and transportation.
Polyurethane Segment to Dominate Polymer Foams Market
Attributes of polyurethane foams, such as light weight, high strength-to-weight ratios, and electric and thermal resistance, make them a perfect choice for use in construction applications. Polyurethane foams also possess excellent load bearing and impact resistance properties. These foams are widely used for insulation of housings; in interior systems of automobiles including seating, headrests, and arm rests; and in Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems in aircraft, trains, and buses. In the furniture industry, polyurethane foams are extensively employed in the production of soft cores of sofas and other coverings of commercial and institutional furniture such as seating in theaters and stadiums. In appliances, polymer foams play an important role in the insulation of refrigerators, freezers, and water heaters. Polymer foams are suitable for these applications, due to their low VOC (volatile organic compound) content and ease of application. Owing to their higher shock absorbency, water resistance, and resiliency, polyurethane foams are employed to protect computers and other electronic products during transportation.
In terms of value, Asia Pacific was the leading region of the global polymer foams market in 2018, followed by Europe. The global polymer foams market is primarily driven by China, owing to increase in industrialization in the country. Growth of the market in India can be attributed to rise in population and increase in demand for infrastructure facilities in the country. All these factors are projected to fuel the demand for polymer foams in the near future. Polymer foams are extensively used in building & construction and packaging industries in Europe. However, use of polymer foams in Europe has dropped over the last few years, due to the fluctuation in prices of raw materials and rise in the number of regulations on polymer foams in the region. The market in Latin America is anticipated to expand at a substantial pace during the forecast period, owing to high demand from the construction sector in the region. Furthermore, growth of the building & construction sector and expansion of the automotive industry are fueling the demand for polymer foams in the region.