Thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) are a class of copolymers (typically a mixture of rubber and plastic) that contain materials with both elastomeric and thermoplastic properties. There are six generic classes of commercial TPEs, out of which one is styrenic block copolymers (SBC), in which styrene ethylene butylene styrene (SEBS) is categorized. It accounts for a majority share of over 65% of the total SBCs. SEBS polymer is a type of TPE that includes styrene monomer.
Some examples of TPE materials formed by block copolymers groups are Kraton, Mediprene, THERMOLAST M, THERMOLAST K, Sofprene, Dryflex, Laprene, Pibiflex, and Hytrel. Of these examples, those produced from stryrenic block copolymers (SBCs) include Laprene, THERMOLAST M, THERMOLAST K, Dryflex, and Sofprene.
SEBS offers various exceptional properties such as heat- and cold-resistance, UV-resistance, processing stability, etc., which enable its increasing usage. The chemical resistance of SEBS is similar to that of natural rubber, which provides it with resistance to acids and bases. SEBS is primarily produced from polyolefin building blocks such as polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE). Due to this, SEBS does not require stabilizers and plasticizers for flexibility.
Utilization of SEBS in applications such as children’s toys, hygiene products, athletic equipment, and food storage is allowed only after approval from regulatory bodies such as the FDA.
Over the past couple of years, SEBS has been instrumental in replacing certain PVC applications in the medical and health care industry, which has resulted in increase in demand for the polymer. SEBS is consumed in a large number of applications such as home furnishings, car interiors, diving equipments, electrical appliances, footwear, toys, food- and medical-grade containers, and hand tools. Based on end-user industry, the SEBS market can be segmented into automotive, building & construction, electricals & electronics, footwear, medical & healthcare, packaging, sports & leisure, and others.
Asia Pacific is a major region of the market for SEBS on a global level. The region leads in terms of global production as well as consumption. Countries such as Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea are major producers of SEBS. They export a major part of the SEBS they produce to countries in the Rest of Asia Pacific (with China being a prominent consumer of SEBS, along with overall SBCs) and to other regions. Domestic consumption in Japan and South Korea has been steady over the past couple of years, with increase in exports. Western Europe held a significant share in terms of overall consumption of SEBS in Europe. Other than Western Europe, major developments in the SEBS market have been observed in Russia and Turkey. The U.S. held a significant share of the SEBS market in North America. It ranked second in terms of demand for styrenic polymers in the world, only following China. Demand for SEBS in the region is fulfilled through imports from countries such as South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. In Latin America, Mexico is the leading country of the SEBS market, due to the presence of manufacturing facilities for production of SBCs.
Key players operating in SEBS market include Kraton Corporation, LCY GROUP, LG Chem Ltd., INEOS STYROLUTION Group GmbH, and TSRC Corporation. Manufacturers in the SEBS market are focusing on product development activities to provide better flow, lower warpage, and greater adhesion of SEBS to other thermoplastics. Companies provide SEBS of different grades for various applications in a number of end-user industries. LG Chem. offers SEBS block copolymer under the trademarket Medalist. Kraton Polymers entered into a partnership with Taiwan based LCY Chemical Corp, in January 2014. This partnership is aimed at taking advantage of the strong demand for styrenic polymers in Asia. In October 2012, in TSRC (Nantong) Industrial Ltd. expanded its SEBS capacity from 20,000 tons to 35,000 tons per year.
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