Global demand for thermally conductive plastics has been high in recent years due to their unique properties and increasing number of applications. Thermally conductive plastics are manufactured using basic polymers, wherein the addition of fillers leads to conductive properties in plastics. Fillers such as graphite or carbon and metal powder are added to base polymers for the formation of thermally conductive plastics.
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Depending on the application and type of filler, the degree of filling in the base polymer can be customized. On the basis of raw material, thermally conductive plastics can be segmented into different types such as PPS (polyphenylene sulfide), PBT (polybutylene terephthalate), PA (polyamide), PC (polycarbonate), PEI (polyethylenimine), PSU (polysulfone), PEEK (polyether ether ketone), and others. On the basis of application, thermally conductive polymers can be categorized into many types such as aerospace, automotive, electrical & electronics, healthcare, industrial, and others.
Thermally conductive plastics are the ideal replacement materials for conventional metals used in different applications requiring heat dissipation. Thermally conductive plastics offer advanced features such as reduction in weight (40% lighter than metals), improved heat dissipation, corrosion resistance, flame retardancy, and reduced cost. Thermal conductivity of these plastics ranges from 20 W/mK to 25 W/mK. Thermally conductive plastics can be used instead of aluminum sheets in electronics gadgets where heat dissipation is required.
They are also used for electronic applications such as LED fixtures, heat sinks, electronic enclosures, and connectors. In the automotive industry, thermally conductive plastics are employed in the manufacturing of various automobile components that are exposed to heat such as radiator end caps, fuel pumps, LED displays, fuel cells, and under hood components. Their low weight along with high thermal conductivity has led to increased demand for thermally conductive plastics in the aerospace and aviation industries. Various aerospace applications such as attenuation tubes, pulleys, sensor plates, and many other parts are made up of thermally conductive plastics. Various medical devices such as EMI (electromagnetic interference) housings, and ESD (electrostatic discharge) protection use thermally conductive plastics in the health care industry. These plastics offer characteristics such as low weight and easy fabrication. These are also less expensive as compared to metal parts. Various equipment and industrial components used for heat dissipation such as coils, pumps, motors/armatures, and transformers are manufactured using thermally conductive plastics.
Significant growth in the electrical & electronics industry is driving the demand for thermally conductive plastics in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. Factors such as easy customization as per end-use, extended life, enhanced heat transfer, and design flexibility have led to increased demand for thermally conductive plastics globally. Rising demand for smart electronics and gadgets in developing regions of Asia Pacific is fueling the growth of thermally conductive plastics. Increasing concern regarding environmental issues has led to higher demand for electric vehicles. This is another factor propelling the growth of the thermally conductive plastics market.
Factors hampering the growth of thermally conductive plastics include their lower thermal conductivity vis-à-vis conventionally used metals and fluctuating prices of raw materials. Rapid rise in demand for LED products across the globe is expected to boost the market for thermally conductive plastics in the near future. Major players are investing significantly in R&D activities in developing innovative products and increase the application range of thermally conductive plastics. This is estimated to generate market opportunities in the near future.
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Key players in the thermally conductive plastics market are BASF SE, Celanese Corporation, Covestro AG, HELLA KGaA Hueck & Co., Kaneka Corporation, Kenner Material & System Co. Ltd., Koninklijke DSM N.V., LATI Industria Termoplastici S.p.A., Mitsubishi Engineering-Plastics Corporation, PolyOne Corporation, RTP Company, Saint-Gobain S.A., and Toray Industries, Inc.