Published December 2015
Polyester film, as discussed in this report, refers to a high-performance biaxially oriented polyethylene terephthalate (BOPET) film made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resin.
Asia, in particular China, is by far the largest producer and consumer of polyester film. The second-largest producer and consumer in order of importance is the EMEA region, closely followed by North America. On a country level, India is actually the largest producer and consumer after China, closely followed by South Korea. China is not only the largest exporter, but also the largest importer of polyester film. The country must import high-end products such as LCDs and optical BOPET film, for which domestic demand is increasing rapidly. However, this is beginning to change. Chinese imports of BOPET film decreased in 2015, compared with 2013 and 2014. Chinese companies are in fact beginning to start new production lines for optical-grade BOPET film in China.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of biaxially oriented polyester film:
Packaging represents the largest end-use market for BOPET film (56%), followed by industrial (25%) and electrical/electronic (16%), which includes flat panel displays. These three end uses, accounting for over 90% of global consumption, are also the most promising.
Demand for BOPET in the industrial sector is concentrated primarily in Europe and in the United States. BOPET film uses in this segment include numerous and various applications such as reprographics, hot-stamping film, thermal-transfer ribbons, security films, release films, adhesive tapes, and labels and decals. Pressure-sensitive labels and thermal-transfer ribbons have been one of the most successful applications during the last five to ten years. Pressure-sensitive labels are self-adhesive and do not require fasteners, glue, or heat to stick. These labels find increasing application in the beverage, beauty, and household industry because of their no-label look, as well as in the automotive and appliance industries because of their durability. Thermal-transfer ribbons are used for bar coding in supermarkets.
The electrical/electronic end-use market includes traditional applications such as photoresists, motor and generator insulation, wire and cable wrap, membrane switches, capacitors, and flexible printed circuits, as well as relatively new applications such as flat panel displays (FPDs) and solar cells. Many of these applications use thick BOPET film. In flat panel displays, polyester film can be used for parts (as diffusion, antireflection, prism, and white film) or in production processes as a release and protection film. In solar cells, polyester film is used in the construction of back sheets.
South Korea, China, Japan, and Taiwan together account for almost all consumption for FPDs. World production of displays is in fact concentrated in these countries. South Korea is by far the largest consumer, with a domestic demand more than double that of Japan.
China accounts for the largest share of consumption of BOPET film for photovoltaic applications. In China, consumption of BOPET film for this application has increased at a rate above 40% per year since 2010. In Europe, demand grew rapidly during 2007–11, thanks to a favorable tariff scenario, but afterwards it decreased significantly because the industry has been moving to Asia. In the United States, BOPET film consumption growth for the solar market will depend on government support for solar energy.
The imaging and photographic market for BOPET film is mainly captive. Applications in this sector include medical X-ray films, graphic art films, and printing films that make use of specialty thick films (60–350 microns). Demand from this end market has been strongly decreasing during the last 10 to 15 years because of the new digital technologies. Demand is expected to continue to decrease, especially in the graphic art and printing film end use.
Consumption of polyester film in traditional end-use markets such as magnetic media and photographic films has dramatically declined during the last few years due to the new competing digital technologies. In developed economies such as Europe, the United States, and Japan, consumption of polyester film for magnetic media applications has become insignificant.
Global consumption of BOPET film is expected to increase at an average annual rate of about 4% in each of the major regions—a slower pace than in the precrisis years. For the next few years the market is expected to remain oversupplied.