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Opportunities For Development Of The Engineering Plastics Industry Are Increasingly Emerging

With the advancement of science and technology and the continuous improvement of people’s living standards, the traditional plastics manufacturing industry is undergoing a profound transformation. Leading this transformative force comes from an advanced polymer material, engineering plastics. The emergence of engineering plastics has brought higher performance products and broader application areas to the plastics manufacturing industry.

    Plastic products can be divided into general plastics, general engineering plastics and special engineering plastics in the order of increasing performance and price, and they are distributed in a pyramid. The general plastics located at the bottom of the pyramid are single-purpose, relatively inexpensive, and are the most common in everyday life. General plastics contain five major varieties, namely Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Polystyrene (PS) and Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS). The general engineering plastics and special engineering plastics located in the middle and top of the pyramid have more excellent performance and higher economic added value, and have great market potential. General engineering plastics include polycarbonate (PC), polyamide (PA), polyoxymethylene (POM), polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) and polyphenylene oxide (PPO); special engineering plastics include polyphenylene Thioether (PPS), liquid crystal polymer (LCP), polysulfone (PSF), polyimide (PI), polyaryletherketone (PEEK), and polyarylate (PAR).

    Compared with general-purpose plastics, engineering plastics have a great improvement in performance, such as high mechanical strength, high rigidity, good dimensional stability, good heat resistance, and excellent electrical insulation. Therefore, engineering plastics are plastic materials that can be used as structural materials and withstand mechanical stress and can be used in a wide temperature range and harsh chemical and physical environments. The application of engineering plastics in the automotive industry is a good example of its excellent performance. First of all, the use of engineering plastics can reduce the friction between automotive transmission components, increase wear resistance, improve sealing, and enable automobiles to achieve greater breakthroughs in safety, comfort, and fuel efficiency. Secondly, because of its light weight, high plasticity, and low manufacturing cost, engineering plastics has significantly increased the auto parts integration and interior and exterior design space, while reducing vehicle weight and manufacturing costs. Engineering plastics are used not only in car bumpers, dashboard panels, and door trims, but also as key materials in key components such as engine air ducts, throttle bodies, and intercoolers. By the end of 2012, 14% of the downstream demand for domestic engineering plastics came from the automobile manufacturing industry, while the proportion in Europe and the United States was already close to 50%. Engineering plastics have become the best material choice for the automotive industry in the 21st century. In the same way, engineering plastics have also been widely used in aerospace, electronic and electrical, automotive, petrochemical, defense and military industries.

    At present, the domestic engineering plastics industry is in a period of rapid development. Following the “Eleventh Five-Year Plan” period becoming the strongest economic growth point for the chemical industry, engineering plastics has once again been included as a strategic emerging industry in the “12th Five-Year” development plan for the new materials industry. Last year, the total domestic engineering plastics consumption reached 2.737 million tons, a year-on-year increase of 11.8%, and the demand growth rate is the fastest in the world. It is expected that the demand for engineering plastics will continue to increase at an annual rate of 8% to 11% in the next 10 years. Despite rapid development, the annual output of domestic engineering plastics is still far from meeting the downstream needs. For example, in 2010, the total consumption of polycarbonate in the country was about 1.1 million tons, of which 970,000 tons came from imports and the self-sufficiency rate was still less than 12%. The "Twelfth Five-Year Plan" clearly points out that by 2015, the domestic engineering plastics market will strive to meet the satisfaction rate of more than 50%.

    In the development of the engineering plastics industry and the process of import substitution, enterprises that have mastered core technologies will be able to fully benefit from the technical barriers and the high value-added returns of the products, and achieve sustained and rapid growth together with the engineering plastics industry.

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