Silicones belong to the family of high-performance specialty materials. Silicones are polymers with large molecules consisting of several repeated sub-units. These polymers consist of siloxane, which is essentially a chain of alternating oxygen and silicon atoms combined with hydrogen and/or carbon. Several steps are involved in the production of silicones. First step involves the reaction between silicon and methyl chloride. The product of this reaction is then treated with water to remove chlorine atoms. During the production process, silanes are produced first. These act as intermediaries in the production of siloxanes and finally silicones. Silicones possess a wide range of physical and chemical properties. They are resistant to ultraviolet radiation, cold, heat, moisture, and several chemicals.
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Electric and Electronic Products are Major Consumers of Silicone Products
Increase in production of electric and electronic products in Asia Pacific is a major driver of the silicones market. The region is a manufacturing hub of products. A wide range of products, from consumer goods to industrial equipment, is manufactured across countries in the region. Large number of electrical and electronics products are manufactured in Asia Pacific. Several countries in Southeast Asia are leading manufacturers and exporters of electric and electronic products. For instance, electronic products account for more than 50% share of the Philippines’ exports. China holds 31% share of the global Information and Communication Technology (ICT) goods export. Electric machinery and equipment are among the top exported products of Thailand. Indonesia is a major consumer of electric and electronic products in ASEAN. Malaysia has focused its manufacturing efforts on semiconductor ecosystems.
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Fluctuation in Supply and Prices of Raw Materials can Significantly Affect Silicone Product Prices
Fluctuating prices of raw materials is a major restraint of the silicones market. These prices are dependent upon several factors such as currency exchange rates, environment protection measures, and energy costs. Silicone manufacturing companies bear some portion of increased raw material prices, while the rest is passed on to customers. In most cases, a rise in prices of raw materials is temporary; manufacturers reduce prices of silicones once they return to the usual level. However, fluctuation in supply raw materials and increase prices of raw materials refrain manufacturers from planning for long term. For instance, China is an important provider and manufacturer of raw materials in the silicones market. However, in several cases, market players based in the country are unable to meet environment protection regulations. They frequently cease the production of silicones during government investigation and restart it once these are over. This has a direct but temporary effect on the prices of raw materials.
Transportation Industry Presents Major Opportunity for Silicones Market
In terms of end user industry, transportation accounted for more than 10% share of the silicones market in 2017. Usage of silicones in the transportation industry is expected to increase at a rapid pace in the near future. New applications of silicones are consistently being developed in the industry. Silicones are employed across all segments of the transportation industry, i.e. automotive, marine, and aviation. Silicones are used in the manufacture of car components such as airbags, ignition coils, engine seals, gaskets, turbocharge hosing, radiator seals, and hoses. They are also employed in the manufacture of components such as windscreens, deck cleats, storage hatches, bilge pump seals, and hull/deck seals in marine vessels. Silicones are part of components such as instrument seals and electronic component potting. They are also used as sealants in in-flight entertainment systems, lighting, overhead bins, fuel tanks, and hydraulic gear boxes during aircraft manufacturing.
Raw Material Supply Issues Compelling Silicone Manufacturers to Increase Product Prices
Various companies manufacturing silicones such as Wacker Chemie AG, Elkem Silicones, Shin-Etsu Chemical Co., and Momentive Performance Materials Inc. increased product prices by 10% to 30% in late 2017 and early 2018 due to the rise in raw material and energy costs. However, companies have continued with their expansion plans. In June 2018, Wacker Chemie AG awarded the U.K.-based Intertronics a distribution contract for silicone products for the U.K. and Ireland. In the same month, Shin-Etsu Silicones of America introduced its advanced eight-carbon silane coupling agents. The company’s KBM-4803 and KBM-1083 lines have eight carbons. This helps create more space between the reactive ends of silanes.
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