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Engineering Plastics on the International Stage: From Local to Global

Engineering Plastics on the International Stage

Chemicals | May, 2024

In the world of materials engineering, the significance of plastics cannot be overstated. From everyday consumer products to high-tech industrial applications, plastics play a vital role in modern manufacturing. Among the various types of plastics, engineering plastics stand out for their exceptional mechanical, thermal, and chemical properties, making them indispensable in a wide range of industries. In this blog, we'll explore the journey of engineering plastics from local production to global prominence, highlighting their key characteristics, applications, and the role they play on the international stage.

Understanding Engineering Plastics:

Engineering plastics, also known as technical plastics or high-performance plastics, are a group of polymers that exhibit superior mechanical properties, heat resistance, and chemical stability compared to commodity plastics. These materials are engineered to meet specific performance requirements and are often used in demanding applications where traditional plastics would fail. Common types of engineering plastics include polyamide (nylon), polycarbonate, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyetheretherketone (PEEK), and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), among others.

Local Origins, Global Impact

The journey of engineering plastics from local origins to global prominence is a testament to the interconnected nature of modern industry. Initially, these materials found their footing in local markets, serving niche applications and addressing specific needs within regional manufacturing ecosystems. However, as their benefits became more apparent and their versatility recognized, engineering plastics began to transcend geographical boundaries.

Driving Forces Behind Global Expansion

Several factors have contributed to the global expansion of engineering plastics:

Technological Advancements: Breakthroughs in polymer chemistry, compounding techniques, and processing technologies have expanded the capabilities of engineering plastics, making them more attractive to a broader range of industries and applications.

Market Demand: Increasingly stringent regulatory requirements, coupled with growing consumer preferences for lightweight, high-performance materials, have fueled demand for engineering plastics worldwide.

Globalization of Supply Chains: The globalization of supply chains has facilitated the widespread adoption of engineering plastics by enabling manufacturers to source materials from anywhere in the world, leveraging cost efficiencies and accessing specialized expertise.

Cross-Industry Collaboration: Collaboration between industries, academia, and research institutions has fostered innovation and accelerated the development of new engineering plastic formulations, opening up new avenues for application and market penetration.

Applications Across Industries:

The versatility of engineering plastics allows them to be used in a wide range of industries, from automotive and aerospace to electronics and healthcare. In the automotive sector, engineering plastics are used for various components such as interior trim, exterior body panels, engine parts, and electrical connectors. Their lightweight, durable, and corrosion-resistant properties make them ideal for improving fuel efficiency and reducing vehicle weight.

In the aerospace industry, engineering plastics are used in aircraft interiors, structural components, and engine parts due to their high strength-to-weight ratio, flame resistance, and resistance to extreme temperatures. In the electronics industry, engineering plastics are used for housing electronic devices, circuit boards, and connectors, providing insulation, protection, and heat dissipation properties. In the healthcare sector, engineering plastics are used for medical devices, implants, and packaging materials due to their biocompatibility, sterilizability, and chemical resistance.

Why was Engineering Plastics Developed?

There is a growing demand for materials that offer advantages such as lightweight properties, ease of processing, and cost-effectiveness compared to traditional metals. This necessity arises from the need to respond quickly to mass production requirements. The demand for engineering plastics emerged around 1960, coinciding with a period of thriving manufacturing output globally. The expansion of industrial production played a significant role in facilitating rapid economic growth, particularly in Japan.

In the automotive industry, the pursuit of fuel efficiency has prompted the need for lighter and more durable materials to address weight reduction concerns. This is in response to the challenge of depleting petroleum resources. Consequently, there has been an increased demand for higher-performance plastics beyond conventional engineering plastics, leading to the development of super engineering plastics.

Both engineering plastics and super engineering plastics are extensively utilized as transitional materials between general-purpose plastics and metals, particularly in terms of mechanical strength and operating temperature. They offer versatile solutions that meet the evolving requirements of various industries, bridging the gap between traditional materials and innovative alternatives.

Differences Between Ordinary Plastic and Plastics for Engineering?

The key differentiator between general-purpose plastics and engineering plastics lies in their advanced functionality.


Engineering plastics encompass a range of types, each offering distinct performance characteristics. Generally, engineering plastics exhibit superior mechanical strength and heat resistance compared to their general-purpose counterparts.

While engineering plastics typically boast a heat resistance temperature of 100 degrees Celsius or higher, super engineering plastics surpass this with a temperature threshold of 150 degrees Celsius or more.

Composition and Structure:

Ordinary plastics, also known as commodity plastics, are typically derived from petroleum-based sources. They encompass a wide range of materials such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These plastics are often characterized by their low cost, ease of production, and versatility.

In contrast, engineering plastics are engineered to possess superior mechanical, thermal, and chemical properties. They are formulated through precise manipulation of molecular structures and additives. Examples include polycarbonate (PC), polyamide (PA), and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Engineering plastics are designed to withstand demanding conditions and offer enhanced performance compared to ordinary plastics.

Mechanical Properties:

One of the primary disparities lies in the mechanical properties of these two categories of plastics. Engineering plastics exhibit greater strength, toughness, and dimensional stability compared to their ordinary counterparts. They can withstand higher loads, resist deformation, and maintain their integrity under extreme conditions. This makes them suitable for applications requiring durability and structural integrity, such as automotive components, machinery parts, and industrial equipment.

Thermal Stability:

Engineering plastics also excel in terms of thermal stability. They possess higher melting points and can withstand elevated temperatures without undergoing significant degradation. This thermal resilience makes them ideal for applications subjected to heat exposure, such as electrical insulators, aerospace components, and high-temperature machinery parts.

Chemical Resistance:

Another crucial aspect is chemical resistance. Engineering plastics are formulated to resist corrosion, solvents, oils, and other harsh chemicals better than ordinary plastics. This property extends their lifespan and widens their scope of applications in industries where exposure to corrosive substances is common, such as chemical processing, oil and gas, and pharmaceuticals.

Precision and Machinability:

Due to their superior dimensional stability and consistency, engineering plastics are more amenable to precision machining and fabrication processes. They can be easily molded, machined, and formed into intricate shapes with tight tolerances, making them preferred materials for manufacturing components with complex geometries and precise specifications.

Cost and Availability:

While engineering plastics offer superior performance, they often come at a higher cost compared to ordinary plastics. The specialized formulations, stringent manufacturing processes, and enhanced properties contribute to their elevated price point. Additionally, the availability of engineering plastics may be more limited compared to commodity plastics, which are produced in larger volumes and widely used in various consumer products.

According to TechSci Research report “Engineering Plastics Market-Global Industry Size, Share, Trends, Opportunity, and Forecast, 2018-2028F, Segmented By Type (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), Polyamide (PA), Polycarbonate (PC), Thermoplastic polyester (PET/PBT), Polyacetal (POM), Fluoropolymer and Others), By End Use Industry (Automotive & Transportation, Electrical & Electronics, Industrial & Machinery, Packaging, Consumer Appliances and Others) By Region, and Competition,” the Global Engineering Plastics Market is projected to grow at an impressive rate through 2028 due to increasing demand from the automobile sector. The market growth is also driven by various other factors, such as their use as preferred substitutes for metal and ceramic and growing technological advancements.

Engineering plastics provide improved load capacity, mechanical characteristics, thermal stability and offer design flexibility. Nylon 6, polysulfide, and polyamides are engineering plastics used in various sectors to create ski boots, car bumpers, dashboard trim, etc.

Properties of Engineering Plastics:

·         Abrasion Resistance

Abrasion resistance is a material’s ability to resist damage due to scratches, wearing, rubbing, marring, or any other friction-related phenomenon. Engineering plastics exhibit a high degree of abrasion resistance compared to commodity plastics due to their improved mechanical properties, specifically their hardness. Good abrasion resistance makes engineering plastics great for parts that are prone to wear, such as guide rollers, gears, and bushings.

·         Dimensional Stability

Dimensional stability refers to a material’s ability to retain its manufactured dimensions in the presence of high or low temperatures. Engineering plastics have varying levels of dimensional stability depending on the particular type of engineering plastic. Engineering plastics with good dimensional stability are beneficial for high-heat environments where there is likely to be thermal expansion, such as in the automotive, aerospace industries.

·         Chemical Resistance

Chemical resistance refers to a material’s ability to resist reaction with compounds, oils, gasses, solvents and other elements in the operating environment. Engineering plastics generally exhibit good chemical resistance. This property makes them good for use in environments where exposure to chemicals is common, e.g., machinery of all kinds, medical applications, and consumer goods like kitchenware, cookware, and bathroom products.

·         Electrical Properties

Electrical properties stand for a material’s ability to insulate or conduct electrical currents. Electrical resistivity and conductivity are the two critical electrical properties of engineering plastics. Most of the engineering plastics are poor conductors of electricity, which makes them ideal for applications where electrical insulation is desired, such as in various wiring and electronic applications.

·         Flammability

A material’s tendency to catch fire is referred as the Flammability. Engineering plastics have varying levels of flammability depending on the particular engineering plastic. Some engineering plastics, like PEEK or PPS, are specifically formulated for flame resistance and ignition prevention. On the other hand, other engineering plastics, like ABS, are flammable. Engineering plastics that are non-flammable are exceptional for use in chemical processing applications where ignition is a concern.

·         Impact Strength

Impact strength is a material’s ability to resist deformation due to a sudden or intense application of load, also known as a shock load. Impact strength is a critical property that characterizes how well a material can withstand sudden forces. In comparison to commodity plastics, several engineering plastics exhibit high impact strength, which makes them good for load-bearing applications, which are subjected to varying impact forces, such as electronic housings and machine guards.

·         Ultraviolet (UV) Light Resistance: UV resistance refers to a material’s ability to resist discoloration and degradation due to exposure to ultraviolet rays from sunlight and other sources. UV rays leads to break down of polymer chains and thus cause chemical changes within the material. UV resistance is important for engineering plastics because it enhances their ability to be used outside or in other UV exposure-intense environments. Many engineering plastics, particularly polyamides, PMMA, and Ultem, exhibit outstanding UV resistance, which makes them able to be used in environments with constant UV exposure.

·         Water Absorption

Water absorption stands for a material’s affinity to absorb water. Engineering plastics are water-resistant and do not easily allow water to penetrate the material, making them ideal for applications where water contact is common.

Moreover, growing awareness about the need for lightweight, fuel-efficient, and environmentally sustainable materials has led to the widespread adoption of engineering plastics in various applications. Manufacturers are investing in research and development to innovate new grades of engineering plastics with enhanced properties such as improved mechanical strength, thermal stability, and flame retardancy to meet the evolving demands of end-users.

Global Market Dynamics:

The global market for engineering plastics has witnessed significant growth in recent years, driven by increasing demand from key end-use industries such as automotive, electronics, and construction. Rapid industrialization, urbanization, and technological advancements have further fueled the adoption of engineering plastics in emerging economies, particularly in Asia-Pacific regions such as China, India, and Southeast Asia.

Sustainability initiatives are catalyzing material innovation within the engineering plastics industry. Heightened environmental awareness and regulatory mandates are propelling companies toward the adoption of sustainable solutions. Market players are channelling investments into research and development endeavors aimed at fostering eco-friendly alternatives, thus harmonizing with principles of the circular economy.

Advancements in Additive Manufacturing: Additive manufacturing, encompassing techniques like 3D printing, is transforming the manufacturing landscape by enabling the production of intricate parts and prototypes utilizing engineering plastics. The capability to tailor components as needed, alongside minimized material wastage, is fueling the integration of additive manufacturing across various sectors such as aerospace, healthcare, and consumer goods. Continuous advancements in materials and printing methodologies are bolstering the efficacy and broadening the utilization of engineering plastics in additive manufacturing processes.

The Asia-Pacific region is experiencing industrialization, urbanization, and infrastructural growth, propelling the need for engineering plastics. China, India, and Southeast Asian nations are seeing significant expansion in automotive, electronics, and construction industries, thereby increasing the utilization of engineering plastics. Investments in manufacturing capacities, alongside technological progress, establish Asia-Pacific as a pivotal hub for market enlargement and innovation.

Top 10 Companies in the Engineering Plastics Market:

1.    Covestro AG

Covestro AG is a leading company in high performance polymers. The company focuses on sustainability and technological advancement and offers a diverse portfolio of materials catering to various industries, including automotive, electronics, and construction. Their commitment to eco-friendly solutions and cutting-edge research solidifies their position as a frontrunner in the market.

2.    Solvay S.A.

Solvay S.A.  is an expert in specialty polymers and delivers solutions tailored to specific customer needs. With a focus on lightweight and high-performance materials, Solvay's engineering plastics find applications in healthcare, aerospace and automotive sectors. Their dedication to sustainability and continuous improvement underscores their influence in the industry. Solvay is committed to enhancing sustainability across two main areas: Climate and Better Life and its sustainability objectives include environmental initiatives, governance and social initiatives.

3.    LG Chem

LG Chem has an extensive product portfolio and global reach and specializes in a wide range of materials, including ABS, PC, and PBT. The company caters to several industries, including consumer electronics, healthcare, and industrial applications. Their emphasis on quality and customer satisfaction reinforces their reputation as a trusted partner in the industry.

4.    DowDuPont Inc.

DowDuPont Inc. holds a significant share in the engineering plastics market with its comprehensive range of innovative solutions and materials. Through its subsidiaries like DuPont, the company provides cutting-edge polymers designed to meet the demanding requirements of various industries, from packaging to transportation. The company’s commitment to collaborative approach to problem-solving and sustainability makes it a key player in the market.

5.    Evonik Industries

Evonik Industries excels in the development and manufacturing of specialty plastics, catering to niche markets with high-performance requirements. With a focus on additive manufacturing and 3D printing technologies, Evonik continues to revolutionize the way engineering plastics are utilized in industrial applications. Their forward-thinking approach and emphasis on customer partnerships cement their position as an industry leader.

6.    SABIC

SABIC is a Saudi chemical manufacturing company. Operating globally, SABIC engages in the production of chemicals, commodity and high-performance plastics, agri-nutrients, and metals. With substantial research capabilities, the company maintains innovation hubs in five strategic regions: the US, Europe, the Middle East, South-East Asia, and North-East Asia. SABIC's presence extends across over 50 countries, boasting a workforce of over 35,000 employees worldwide. The company extends its influence on the engineering plastics market with a wide range of thermoplastics and specialty polymers. With a focus on sustainability and innovation, SABIC's materials find applications across various sectors, including automotive, healthcare, and consumer goods.

7.    Lanxess AG

Lanxess AG is a specialty chemicals company based in Cologne, Germany. It was founded in 2004. The company has a strong emphasis on research and development, and continuously introduces new products to address evolving market needs. Its global presence and customer-centric approach positions it as a preferred supplier for industries demanding superior performance and reliability.

8.    Chevron Corporation

Chevron Corporation's presence in the engineering plastics market is notable, particularly through its subsidiary Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC. With a diverse portfolio of polyethylene and polypropylene resins, Chevron Phillips Chemical caters to a wide range of industries, including packaging, automotive, and construction. Their commitment to product innovation and sustainability reinforces their position as a key player in the market.

9.    BASF SE

The company holds a significant share of the engineering plastics market with its broad portfolio of materials and extensive research capabilities. BASF's engineering plastics find applications across various sectors, including lightweight automotive components and durable consumer goods. Their focus on sustainability and collaborative innovation ensures they remain at the forefront of the industry.

10.  LyondellBasell Industries N.V.

LyondellBasell Industries N.V.  is a major player in the engineering plastics market and provides a diverse range of materials optimized for performance and sustainability. With a global footprint and a strong focus on customer satisfaction, LyondellBasell serves industries such as automotive, packaging, and construction with innovative polymer solutions. Their commitment to continuous improvement and technological excellence solidifies their position as a top contender in the market.

Thus, the engineering plastics market is driven by a select group of companies dedicated to innovation, sustainability, and customer satisfaction. Covestro AG, Solvay S.A., LG Chem, DowDuPont Inc., Evonik Industries, SABIC, Lanxess AG, Chevron Corporation, BASF SE, and LyondellBasell Industries N.V. stand as pioneers in this dynamic industry, shaping the future of materials engineering and driving progress across various sectors.

According to TechSci Research Report India Engineering Plastics Market By Polymer Type (ABS, Polycarbonate, SAN, Polyamide, PBT, Others), By End User (Automotive, Electrical & Electronics, Consumer Goods, Others), By Region, Competition, Forecast and Opportunities, 2019-2029,” the India Engineering Plastics Market was valued at USD 3.98 billion in 2023 and is anticipated to project robust growth in the forecast period with a CAGR of 5.26% through 2029. The market growth is driven by engineering plastics use in numerous sectors, such as construction, packaging, clothing, home furnishing and agriculture, among others.

However, the market also faces certain challenges like volatility in price of raw materials. Engineering plastics are synthesized from a diverse range of raw materials, such as natural gas, crude oil and petrochemical derivatives and the prices of these commodities are subject to significant fluctuations due to geopolitical tensions, supply-demand imbalances and changes in economic conditions. The fluctuation in the prices is a cause of concern for manufacturers striving to maintain profitability in the market. Despite these challenges manufactures are focusing on strategies to limit the impact of price volatility, such as diversifying their supply base.

The rising demand for consumer goods is a key trend witnessed in the market. As consumers’ buying power increases, so does the demand for consumer goods, which in turn contributes to the demand for engineering plastics. Moreover, the manufacturing sector plays a pivotal role in the realm of engineering plastics, acting as the cornerstone for innovation, production, and distribution. Within this sector, advanced technologies and processes are employed to transform raw materials into a diverse array of engineering plastics, tailored to meet specific performance criteria demanded by various industries. From automotive components to electronic devices, engineering plastics offer lightweight, durable, and versatile solutions. Manufacturers drive progress through continuous research and development, refining formulations and production techniques to enhance the performance and sustainability of engineering plastics. Furthermore, they ensure quality standards and regulatory compliance, fostering trust among consumers and industries alike. In essence, the manufacturing sector serves as the engine powering the evolution and widespread adoption of engineering plastics across a myriad of applications, driving progress in modern engineering and design.

Challenges and Opportunities:

While the future outlook for engineering plastics appears promising, the industry faces certain challenges such as volatility in raw material prices, regulatory constraints, and environmental concerns related to plastic waste and recycling. Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on sustainable practices, such as the use of bio-based and recycled materials, to minimize the environmental impact of engineering plastics.

Furthermore, advancements in additive manufacturing technologies, such as 3D printing, offer new opportunities for engineering plastics by enabling rapid prototyping, customization, and on-demand manufacturing of complex parts with intricate geometries. The adoption of digitalization, automation, and Industry 4.0 principles in manufacturing processes is also expected to drive efficiency, productivity, and innovation in the engineering plastics industry.


Engineering plastics have emerged as indispensable materials in modern manufacturing, offering a unique combination of properties that meet the demanding requirements of various industries. From automotive and aerospace to electronics and healthcare, engineering plastics continue to play a crucial role in driving innovation, efficiency, and sustainability across global markets. As the industry continues to evolve, manufacturers and stakeholders must collaborate to overcome challenges, seize opportunities, and further elevate the prominence of engineering plastics on the international stage.

As we look to the future, the trajectory of engineering plastics on the international stage is one of continued growth and innovation. Advancements in material science, additive manufacturing, and sustainability initiatives are poised to further expand the capabilities and applications of engineering plastics, driving their adoption across new industries and markets. Moreover, as global challenges such as climate change and resource scarcity come into sharper focus, engineering plastics will play a vital role in enabling sustainable solutions through lightweighting, recyclability, and eco-friendly formulations.

In conclusion, the journey of engineering plastics from local to global prominence is a testament to human ingenuity and the relentless pursuit of progress. As these remarkable materials continue to evolve and proliferate, they will undoubtedly shape the future of manufacturing, engineering, and innovation on a global scale.

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