Over the past few years, manufacturers across the automotive, aerospace & defense, energy, and electronics industries are showing enormous interest in metal alternatives to obtain higher design freedom, improved performance and significant weight reductions. Metal replacement materials largely help in speeding up installations and enhancing the mechanical properties which in turn offers greater durability and reduces the overall cost. The growing prominence of these solutions is expected to proliferate the expansion of the metal replacement market in the ensuing years.
The industry is observing lucrative growth opportunities in the electronics sector on account of the elevated sales of consumer electronics, especially mobile phones, across the globe. According to the Consumer Technology Association statistics, revenue from the retail sales from the consumer technology industry in the U.S. will reach USD 461 billion in 2021, representing a rise of 4.3% year on year.
On the other hand, China is showing promising performance with regard to cell phone exports. According to the data published by the General Administration of Customs of China, cell phone exports in the country accounted for USD 22.9 billion during the first two months of 2021, representing year-on-year growth of 49.2%.
Such a considerable rise in the demand for consumer electronics goods is subsequently driving the adoption of metal replacement solutions. They find important usage in mobile device enclosures, circuit boards, batteries, sensors, audio speakers, etc. to address engineering challenges and improve the performance and reliability of products. For instance, high-performance polymer solutions offer high reliability, versatility, and design freedom for next-generation electronic devices.
The numerous product advantages are essentially driving its demand in the aerospace industry. The high-performance polymers are enabling aerospace companies to enhance the performance of their aircraft by replacing the metals. The adoption of these polymers is being driven by the growing necessity for fuel-efficient and eco-friendly aircraft. In addition, they also offer greater reliability, reduce assembly times and minimize operating and manufacturing costs.
As a result of the high product demand in aerospace, several eminent market players are inclined on developing innovative solutions designed according to the industry needs to gain a competitive edge in the market. To illustrate, in 2020, Victrex collaborated with French aircraft manufacturer Daher to develop a 176-ply laminate structural panel for aircraft with a 32 mm thickness, based on VICTREX AE™ 250 LMPAEK thermoplastic composite. According to the company, this new solution will expedite the aircraft manufacturing process and improve efficiency.
Speaking of the application of metal replacement in the transportation sector, it is being extensively used to make vehicles lighter and more fuel-efficient. Metal alternatives like polymers, plastics, composites, etc. not only enhance fuel efficiency but also improve durability and driving comfort through reduced noise and vibration.
Quoting an instance, in 2020, AIMPLAS, the Plastics Technology Centre, contributed to the European Mat4Rail project involving the manufacturing of new materials and components for the railway of the future. The initiative was aimed at reducing the weight of railway vehicles by replacing metal components with composite materials to enhance the vehicle capacity and passenger comfort. The role of AIMPLAS was to develop new hybrid resin formulations offering better resistance to flame propagation and to be used in fiber-reinforced polymers.
Rising demand for material that can enhance performance and offer greater freedom during manufacturing has impelled the demand for metal replacement solutions across sectors like electronics, aerospace, automobile, etc. Besides, technological developments in these solutions are further driving their demand and is expected to accelerate the business growth in coming years.