Epoxy resins are thermosetting polymers with high chemical and electrical resistance, outstanding adhesion and high durability at high and low temperatures. They can also be cast or poured without forming bubbles.
Due to their properties, epoxy resins are used in adhesives, coatings, paints and structural parts for automotive, aerospace, and aircraft industries as well as in wind turbines. Another key use is in construction as epoxy resins make non-slip, easy-to-clean surface adhesives. They are also used in the electronics industry to encapsulate electronic components.
The global epoxy resins market is broadly expected to track global GDP growth, as it has done previously, largely due to its widespread use in GDP-derived industries such as construction.
The global market for epoxy resins was estimated to be worth around $5.5bn in 2011 and is expected to reach $8.4bn by 2017, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.3% from 2012 to 2017. (Market estimate data from Researchandmarkets.com)
Demand for epoxy resins is expected to rise, particularly in Asia, due to robust growth in end-user industries such as electronics. Furthermore, research and development is expected to drive demand in new applications and uses such as in composites, surface coatings and adhesives.
According to European statistics agency Eurostat, in 2013 imports of epoxy resins into the EU amounted to 139,557 tonnes, up 17% from 2012. In the same period, exports experienced a slight 5% decline with volumes falling to 156,768 tonnes in 2013.
Epoxy resin prices are generally directed by factors such as seasonality, supply and demand, energy costs and raw materials pricing.
Rising demand for epoxy resins from Asia, largely from the electronics industry, has led to a surge in production in the region and overcapacity, driving down prices. This has resulted in greater export volumes of epoxy resins from Asia to Europe and has put downward pressure on prices.
Other drivers of price include technology costs, research and development activities and environmental regulations.
Epoxy is a copolymer formed from a resin and a hardening chemical. Most common epoxy resins are produced from a reaction between ECH and BPA, though BPA may be replaced by similar chemicals.
The hardener consists of polyamine monomers, such as triethylenetetramine. When mixed together, the amine group reacts with the epoxide groups to form a covalent bond. The resulting polymer is heavily cross-linked and is thus rigid and strong.
Curing, through polymerization can be controlled through temperature and the choice or resin and hardener compounds. The process can take minutes to hours.
Some formulations benefit from heating during the cure period, whereas others simply require time and ambient temperatures.
Consumption of epoxy resins is closely linked to GDP growth, largely because demand stems primarily from GDP-linked industries such as construction and electronics. As a result, much demand, especially from the construction sector is seasonal.
In Europe, 2014 has seen a mild winter and an early, warm spring. This has helped boost construction activity and demand for epoxy resins. Furthermore, these demand drivers have come at a time of increasing economic confidence.
Across the 28-country EU, GDP is estimated to expand by 1.5% in 2014 and by 2.0% in 2015, according to forecasts from the European Commission published in February.
Across the 18-strong eurozone GDP is anticipated to rise by 1.2% in 2014 and by 1.8% in 2015.