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From 3D Printing to Smartphones, New High-Performance Thermoplastics Emerge

Lux Research

With new materials and processing technologies opening up new applications, versatile high performance thermoplastics will gain broader adoption, Lux Research says


BOSTON, MA – March 4, 2014 – High performance thermoplastics (HPTPs) – lightweight materials with the potential to replace advanced metal, ceramic, and other composite parts – are on the road to key market advances, according to Lux Research. These multifunctional materials will overcome a mix of cost and performance constraints to find broader adoption, building on past successes in aerospace, medical and electronics applications.

“Bringing HPTP products to market successfully requires a confluence of high-performance demands, typically across multiple metrics where HPTPs excel – and an acceptable price point,” said Anthony Vicari, Lux Research Associate and the lead author of the report titled, “Innovating High Performance Thermoplastics: Scouting Process and Material Technologies for Existing and Emerging Markets.”

Lux Research analysts evaluated the evolving market for HPTPs with a focus on three families – sulfur-containing HPTPs, polyketones, and polyimides – that have among the best high temperature properties and operating performance in their neat (pure) form, and are most commonly used neat or as composite matrices. Among their findings:

  • Materials for 3D printing represent a big market. As 3D printing migrates from prototyping to manufacturing, metals and high-performance polymers are poised to grow more rapidly than other material classes. HPTP feedstocks for 3D printing will grow to a market worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

  • Lightweighting brings value to railcar seats. The value proposition of HPTPs for transportation is likely greatest in high-speed passenger rails, where higher energy consumption and greater wear raise the value of lightweighting and also increase cost tolerance.

  • Smartphones have huge potential. With over 600 million smartphones sold in 2013, the potential market for HPTP material exceeds 15,000 tons in volume and up to the low billions of dollars in value per year. However, near-term adoption will be slow on account of switching costs for manufacturers.

The report, titled “Innovating High Performance Thermoplastics: Scouting Process and Material Technologies for Existing and Emerging Markets,” is part of the Lux Research Advanced Materials Intelligence service.