The medical plastics market has expanded significantly over the years, due to a major drive to replace traditional metallic medical devices with polymers that can be processed easily. Styrenic polymers account for approximately one-fifth of the global medical polymers market. Polymers containing styrene as the main building block are termed styrenic polymers. Styrene is a downstream derivative of petroleum. It is manufactured from benzene and ethylene. Polystyrene is the most common styrenic polymer. It is also a commodity thermoplastic. Polystyrene is used in various industries such as the medical and healthcare industry. Styrenic copolymers exhibit a variety of physical and chemical properties, depending upon other monomer or monomers in the styrenic polymer chain. Styrenics gain different polymeric properties through alteration of the co-monomers and levels of co-monomers along with impact modifiers, which are used to manufacture styrenic polymers for medical applications. Properties such as opacity, transparency, thermal resistance, crack resistance, chemical resistance and mechanical resistance depend upon the types and levels of feedstock used.
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Styrenic polymers are used in the medical industry for medical device applications such as equipment housing, tubes, bags, connectors, liquid delivery systems, IV spikes, and medical packaging. The most common styrenic polymers that are used for medical device manufacturing and packaging include polystyrene, ABS, SAN and styrenic block copolymers such as SBS and SEBS. Specialty styrenic polymers such as MABS, MBS and SMMA are also used in similar applications where requirements for special characteristics are high. For instance, MABS exhibits physical characteristics similar to ABS, albeit with improved crack resistance and transparency. Polystyrene is the most used styrenic polymer in medical applications. ABS is one of the most important co-polymers that dominate the market for styrenics. ABS stands in crossroads between commodity plastics and engineered thermoplastics. Recent increase in the usage of ABS has resulted in partial commoditization of the plastic. SAN is a precursor to ABS; however, its usage is limited in the medical styrenic polymers market. Styrenics such as MABS, MBS, SMMA and ABS blends have maintained their specialty character. This trend is expected to continue in the near future as well. In terms of volume, the global styrenic polymers market for medical styrenics is likely to expand at a CAGR of 6.5% from 2014 to 2020.
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Styrenic polymers offer several desirable product characteristics to cater to the diverse requirements of the medical industry. Styrenic materials can be processed to be rigid as well as flexible, as per end-user requirements. Owing to its flexibility, styrenic polymers offer unique advantages in design and development of medical devices and parts. Properties such as chemical inertness, unique bonding polarity, and physical and aesthetic properties boost the styrenic polymers market in medical applications. However, styrenic polymers are higher priced compared to other medical polymers such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and polyethylene (PE). This hampers the market from achieving higher growth, especially in price sensitive markets, to some extent.
North America accounted for the largest market share (39.9%) of styrenic polymers for medical applications in 2013. The styrenic polymers market for medical applications in North America was followed by Asia Pacific and Europe in 2013. Asia Pacific is likely to record the fastest growth in the global market for medical styrenics during the forecast period. Rapid increase in the geriatric population across the world coupled with constant improvement and innovation in the medical industry is projected to provide ample opportunity for the growth of styrenic polymers market for medical applications.
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The global styrenic polymers market for medical applications is moderately concentrated in nature. Major companies operating in the market include Styrolution Group GmbH, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, Chi Mei Corporation, LG Chem Ltd. and Kraton Polymers.
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