ABS Plastic (ABS): Production, Market, Price and its Properties

ABS plastic is a terpolymer formed by polymerization process styrene & acrylonitrile in the presence of polybutadiene. Usually, the composition comprises the half amount of styrene with the remaining balance divided between acrylonitrile and butadiene.



ABS Plastic Bricks


What is ABS Plastic?

ABS Plastic is a common form of thermoplastic available since 1940 and now it has become the most popular engineering polymer. It is a copolymer of Acrylonitrile, Butadiene, and Styrene and generally possesses medium strength and performs at medium cost.

It is a terpolymer composed of three different monomers. It is a common thermoplastic resin and can often meet the property requirements at a reasonable price falling between standard and engineered resins. It is tough, hard and rigid and has good chemical resistance

The three monomers involved in the formation of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene play a different role in the performance of material as acrylonitrile provides chemical and thermal stability to the polymer, butadiene enhances its toughness and strength and styrene gives it a final nice and glossy finish.

It is regarded as the best of all the styrenic family of polymers due to its properties as it is tough, hard and rigid along with strong chemical resistance and stability.

It is applicable in various end segment consumer products such as housing appliances (refrigerator, washing machine etc), luggage, camera bodies, tool boxes, battery cases, packing crates, radio, various furniture parts etc.



History of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene has been available since the 1940s and with its increased toughness over styrene has made it applicable for a large number of applications in different end segment markets.

Later, certain limitations led to the introduction of a new monomer ‘butadiene’ form of rubber as a third monomer. Combination of these three monomers Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene became readily available in the 1950s and with time they became the most popular kind of engineering polymers.

ABS Plastic Properties

ABS Plastic offer characteristics that encourage their usage in plastic market end segment. It is a strong sturdy material with a high melting point. This Polymer is produced to meet the particular requirements of its primary customers on the basis of qualities it possesses. Its density can be modified according to the usage by changing the proportion of basic three monomers of ABS material (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene).

The basic characteristics which this material possesses are as follows:

  • Excellent resistance to chemicals and different kind of plasticizers.
  • They offer medium strength and can be tough, hard or rigid on the basis of their uses.
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene materials have high tensile and impact strength along with stiffness.
  • These resins perform excellently even at high and low temperatures.
  • They provide dimensional stability and outstanding formability.
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene polymers are electroplatable and offer creep resistance
  • They have high ductility.
  • It is readily available at low cost.

Basic Physical Properties

Tensile strength 46 MPA (6600 PSI) and notched impact strength 10 – 20 Kj/m2

Thermal coefficient of expansion 70 – 90 * 10-6

Maximum Cont. use temperature 80 – 95° C

Density 1.0 – 1.05g/cm3

Glass transition 105 °C (221 °F)

Resistance toward Chemicals

  • ABS resins offer excellent resistance to Dilute Acids and Dilute Alkalis.
  • They have very good resistance to oil and greases.
  • ABS polymers offer moderate resistance to Aliphatic Hydrocarbons
  • They have poor resistance to Aromatic Hydrocarbons, Halogenated Hydrocarbons and towards Alcohols.

If we talk in terms of the physical appearance of the ABS material, it has an excellent aesthetic appearance which gives it an attractive feel and touch and also the surface area of ABS material allow easy paint and glue.

ABS Plastic Production

How is ABS Plastic Produced?

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is commonly polymerized through emulsion process from acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene. Acrylonitrile is a synthetic monomer produced from propylene and ammonia; butadiene is a petroleum hydrocarbon obtained from the C4 fraction of steam cracking styrene monomer is made by dehydrogenation of ethyl benzene-a hydrocarbon obtained in the reaction of ethylene and benzene. It can also be created by a patented process known as continuous mass polymerization.

Globally emulsion process is chosen to derive acrylonitrile butadiene styrene where the nitrile group of the acrylonitrile monomers develop a kind of polar attraction with each other and help in contributing to the toughness of the polymer.

At the same time presence of polybutadiene provides physical strength to the plastic product through a common process of rubber toughening. Due to a large number of interspersed particles of rubbery polybutadiene, the material can absorb more mechanical energy and plastically deform without fracturing.

As it is a thermoplastic, meaning it can be easily treated in different temperature conditions. Once it can be heated then set upon cooling, and afterward can be reheated again to form other shapes of plastics without any further degradation.

Processing of plastics at different temperatures enhance its basic properties. Processing of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene at high temperatures provide a better look and finish to the product. It also enhances the heat and chemical resistance ability of the material.

This polymer is a thermoplastic material can be easily recycled and again used with virgin materials to form new plastic products.

The commonly produced different types of resins used are High Gloss Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, Low Gloss Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, High Impact Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, General Purpose Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, High Flow Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, and Plate able Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene.

World Production Capacity of ABS

Global Production Capacity of ABS Material

Global production capacity has been increasing in recent years. In 2013 the global production of these materials was estimated at 9.3 million tons which have now reached up to 10.8 million tons in 2016.

Production of these resin materials is growing due to increased consumption, primarily from end segment industries. These polymers are used in the production of a variety of consumer and industrial goods, automotive & electronic parts and even used for packaging of goods.

With the increasing industries for end-segment products and a countless number of uses of polymer in varied products all over the world, production of these resins is also increasing accordingly.

Regional Production Capacity of ABS

Asia-Pacific (excluding China) is the leading region is the global production of these plastic polymers for 2016, holding 46% of the market share owing to continuously increasing demand for resin in these regions.

China is one of the most dominating countries both in production & consumption of these plastic resins owing to a varied number of reasons. China alone held 36% of the total market share in the production for 2016.

Other major regions contributing to global production include Europe (10%), North America (8%), South America (1%) and Middle East & Africa (1%).

ABS Polymer Production in EuropeProduction of ABS Material in Europe

The European market is also one of the prominent ones in the production of these resins as the demand is increasing continuously from the end-segments.

Among all European countries, Italy & Spain are leading in production and sales of these resin materials. Italy produced polymer up to 115734 thousand kg and Spain produced 99384 thousand kg of material in 2016.

These countries were followed by The Netherland with the production of 35,637 thousand kilograms of the polymer. It was carried by The United Kingdom with the production of 10,501.9 thousand kg.

Other major European countries producing these plastic resins in 2016 were Portugal (4,826.8 thousand kg), France (1,148.6 thousand kg), Hungary (160 thousand kg) and Poland with (115 thousand kg).

ABS Pricing Trend

ABS Plastic Market Analysis

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) Demand in Asian Countries

ABS Market Demand in Asia

The Global demand for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is increasing over last 10 years due to increased consumption & production of these resins.

Asia-Pacific has been dominating the global market demand in recent years owing to its increased usage in end-segment markets including electronics, household appliances, industrial & automotive parts etc.

China is the leading country among all other Asian-Pacific countries. It holds more than 60% of the market share in global demand alone (excluding Asia). Even after excluding China, Asian-Pacific regions hold a prominent share in the total market demand.

South Korea was the leading country with 1851 ktpa in 2016 owing to increasing number of manufacturing firms & automotive industries. It is further followed by Japan with the demand of 372.5 ktpa. Demand for these materials in Japan is driven by low operating cost along with the easy availability of resources.

After Japan, India is the next important market for these polymers with the annual demand of 200 ktpa in 2016. Indian market demand is driven by consumer-related end-user applications (electronics, household, automotive etc).

Other major rejoins for increasing market demand in Asian Regions include Thailand (195 ktpa), Taiwan (189.7 ktpa) and Malaysia (100 ktpa).

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) Demand in China

ABS Demand in China

China has been dominating the global market demand in recent years. China alone accounts for more than 60% of the total market demand.

The market has witnessed continuous growth in the market demand of China in recent years. As the stats mentioned above show that the market demand has increased from 2.7 million tons in 2013 to 6.6 million tons in 2015.

Factors driving the market demand of China Include:

  • Increased investment and production in automotive & construction sector.
  • Growing usage in end-segment products (electronics, packaging, appliances etc).
  • The advantage of low operating cost
  • Easy availability of raw materials
  • Increasing population, urbanization & industrialization.

China is actually driving the major portion of the Asian-Pacific market and is expected to drive the demand in near future also.

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) Sales in European Countries

ABS Sales in European Market

Global Market has witnessed continuous growth in sales of these polymer resins in recent years owing to its increasing production & consumption capacity annually.

European Regions have also witnessed a significant amount of sales in recent years owing to their increasing manufacturing activities and continuous innovations in the usage of these resins for different products in varied sectors.

Italy and Spain are two major countries of the European market with a high amount of sales for the year 2016 amounting to 108192 thousand kg in Italy & 91485 thousand kg in Spain.

These countries are further followed by The Netherland with the sale of 32554 thousand kg in the year 2016, carried by The United States with the sales amounting to 994.6 thousand kg.

Other major countries in European sales market for these plastic polymers include Portugal (4743.7 thousand kg), Hungary (145 thousand kg), Poland (115 thousand kg) and Denmark (44.8 thousand kg).

Global Market Forecast of ABS Material


ABS Plastic Market Forecast

The market is forecasted to grow more than US$ 30bn by 2022. The market was around US$ 23 bn in 2016 and will cross US$ 30bn in 2022 as per industry.  Superior properties of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene polymer such as its strength and durability even at low temperatures have a positive impact on the growth of this market for the next coming years.

The market has witnessed a continuous rise in the usage of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene in different applications for a variety of end segment markets such as automotive ancillaries, construction materials, household appliances and a number of consumer goods used in daily lives.

Market Drivers & Constraints

The major factors driving market demand are:

  • Increasing need for lightweight vehicles especially in developed regions such as Europe and North America.
  • Expansion of Automotive industries in countries like Mexico, China, and Indonesia.
  • Increases demand acrylonitrile butadiene styrene in electrical and electronics sector as it provides good insulation properties.
  • Increase in consumer income and improved economic conditions.
  • Increasing infrastructural activities in developing countries also highly propel market demand.

However, there are certain factors which restrain the growth of markets such as increasing use of biopolymers due to rising environmental and health concerns, stringent government regulations on usage of plastics and easy availability of substitutes.

Regional Outlook

Demand for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is highly dominated by Asia-Pacific regions among which China and India have the maximum contribution. Europe has become another major shareholder in global market share led by Germany, France, UK, and Russia.

Key Players

The major leading players in the market are- Chi Mei, LG Chemicals, Styron, Kumho Petrochemical, INEOS Styrolution, Asahi Kasei, Sabic, China Petroleum and Chemical, Formosa plastic, Elix Polymers, BASF, Toray, Ampa, Rochling, Dow Chemicals, PolyOne, Entec Polymers, and Techno-Polymers.

Global Trade of ABS Material

Trade Balance of ABS Material

Global Trade Balance of ABS

The Trade Balance of ABS material was US$ -0.45bn in 2016. The export of ABS for the year 2016 was US$ 6.97bn and the import was US$ 7.42bn. The global trade balance for last five years is almost constant with almost no changes.

World Top 10 Exporting Countries ABS Material

Countries Exporting ABS Polymer

The export market is strongly dominated by South Korea. It was the largest exporter of ABS resin in 2016 and exported the primary form of polymers worth US$ 2072.9mn

The second largest exporter of the ABS resin was Taiwan with an export value of US$ 1593.3mn. The third largest exporter in 2016 globally was Hong Kong. It exported the material worth of US$ 839.9mn followed by Belgium worth of US$ 451.8mn.

Remaining countries include Malaysia (US$ 283.6mn), The Netherlands (US$ 275.1mn), The United States (US$ 231.7mn), Germany (US$ 207.3mn), Japan (US$ 207.3mn) and Thailand (US$ 185.4mn).

 World Top 10 Countries Importing ABS Material

Countries Importing ABS Polymer

China is the world’s largest importer of ABS resins in primary form. It imported polymer worth of US$ 2757.3mn. The major factor driving the Chinese market is growing demand from automotive & electronics sector.

The second largest importer is Hong Kong and it imported polymer worth of US$ 845mn followed by Germany with the import of worth US$ 361.3mn.

Other major importing countries include The United States (US$ 300.6mn), Mexico (US$ 282.9mn), Thailand (US$ 240.9mn), Vet Nam (US$ 218mn), Italy (US$ 203.7mn), Turkey (US$ 177.5mn) and Indonesia (US$ 177mn).

ABS Plastic Uses

ABS is among one of the most widely used plastics and is visible in everyday basic items such as electronics, hardware, kitchen appliances, toys and in many other end-use products. The qualities of these materials to be injection molded help in production products of complex and precise shapes such as musical instruments, medical devices, automotive parts and sports equipment etc. It is applicable for production of wide range of products in a variety of segments. Some of the primary applications are:

ABS Filament & Printing

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene can be easily extruded into thin filaments and is also used as a material for 3D printers. It is the most preferred material used for 3D printing as it is more durable and has the ability to sustain even at higher temperatures.

This polymer is given more importance in 3D printing due to its properties which are strongly suitable for printing such as it is strong, easily affordable and can help to modify the parts after printing. It proves to be hard and sturdy along with being strongly heat resistant facilitate the process of 3D printing. Using this ABS material in this process also provide a nice smooth finish to the end product.

ABS is used primarily by professionals, hobbyists, and educators for 3D printing. It has been an ideal choice for 3D filament used for printing mock-ups, concept models, and figures, all kinds of gadgets etc.

Benefits of 3D printing with good quality acrylonitrile butadiene styrene filament;

  • They provide the nice smooth finish.
  • ABS filaments are harder and sturdy.
  • They are slightly flexible according to the requirement.
  • Good quality ABS filaments are highly heat resistant and easily soluble in acetone.
  • They are more durable and solidify quickly.

ABS Plastic Pipes

Plastic pipes are used on a large scale in developed and developing countries both. Growing infrastructural activities have accelerated the demand for plastic pipes worldwide. Plastic pipes are inexpensive, lightweight and do not corrode.

They can keep hot water hot and do not condense from the cold water like metal pipes. Plastic pipe is usually made up of two commonly used plastic materials –acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and polyvinyl chloride.

ABS  pipes are widely used for construction and infrastructure development activities as they are easier and less expensive to install, provide smooth flow, lightweight, do not rust or easily corrode away, resistant to mechanical damages, can easily sustain temperature changes and can withstand even at high temperatures.

History of ABS Plastic Piping Systems

These pipes and fittings were initially developed in the early 1950s to be used in oil fields and chemical industries. Later, in 1959 a famous Arizona builder named John F. Long used acrylonitrile butadiene styrene pipes in residence as an experiment. After 25 years a research firm dug up and found no evidence of rust or corrosion in the pipes and finally, in 1967 these pipes and fitting were originally approved to be used for construction.

Features of ABS Plastic Piping Systems

  • They are easier to install and less expensive than metal piping systems.
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene pipes offer excellent flow due to smooth interior finishing.
  • They are resistant to mechanical or chemical damage.
  • They are lightweight and do not rust or corrode.
  • It can perform well even at odd temperatures.

ABS Plastic Sheet

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene material is also widely used in the manufacturing of plastic sheets. These sheets are used to further produce a variety of products for end segment plastics market. ABS can be easily thermoformed according to mold for production.

This material is used in producing sheets as it offers outstanding formability, high tensile strength and stiffness, easy ductility and is also resistant to many chemicals and plasticizers.

These sheets can be further applied in the production of products such as aircraft interior trim, cassette holders, bins and trays made of plastic, automotive parts, electronics, and luggage etc.

Features of ABS Sheets

  • These sheets offer excellent chemical and stress crack resistance.
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene offers smooth and glossy finish to the products.
  • Black sheets are UV resistant while white sheets are not.
  • ABS plastic sheets have good impact strength, formability, stiffness, and toughness according to their user’s demand.

Physical Properties

Forming temperature: 325°F to 350°F & Maximum temperature: 185°F

Benefits of using ABS Sheets

  • They have high tensile and impact strength.
  • Excellent performance at high and low temperatures.
  • High Ductility.
  • Easily lend itself to dielectric welding.
  • Resistant to chemicals and plasticizers
  • Outstanding formability.

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene plastic sheeting comprises of two kinds; Black plastic sheeting and White plastic sheeting. Black plastic sheeting is made to better suit its applications as white ABS sheets are used commonly for automotive, electronics and other end segment plastic products used in daily lives, the Black plastic sheeting is basically used in gardens, furniture, and floorings.

Other Uses

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene resins provide a wide range of applications. Their usage is visible from the kitchen to car panels. Almost all products of plastic used in our daily lives involve a touch of ABS material in them because of its durability, strong heat and chemical resistance.

Usage of this material has increased in end market plastic product in recent years. It is used widely in household appliances such as vacuum cleaners, kitchen appliances, telephones, toys, and hardware etc.

Two primary end segments using acrylonitrile butadiene styrene are an automotive industry (bumpers, doors, dashboards etc) and the electrical/ electronics segment (switches, switchboards, sockets etc).

Advantages of ABS Plastic

It is a commonly used thermoplastic which has the ability to meet the properties required at a reasonable price both for standards resins and engineering resins. The basic advantage of choosing ABS as a thermoplastic is that it is a combination of strength and rigidity of acrylonitrile and styrene polymers along with the toughness of polybutadiene.

It is an excellent chemical resistant and strongly prevents chemical degradation from any kind of alkaline and acidic agents. Their nature of forming strong chemical bonds provide a degree of thermal stability to plastic which prevents plastic breakdown even at very high temperatures.

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is a kind of amorphous solid which has no particular melting point. This property of ABS makes it a suitable material for injection molding process to manufacture a number of products.

The aesthetic appearance of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene material proves to be advantageous as they make plastic look more glossy and as it is easy to paint it also offers a variety of choice to manufacture products.

Hazards of ABS Plastic Use

Despite acrylonitrile butadiene styrene possessing so many properties which make it a good thermoplastic, there are several properties which are not in favor of this material as a plastic. It is easily flammable when exposed to fire at high temperature.

The combustion of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene results in the production of some toxic products such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide which are too hazardous. It also posses poor weather ability and is poor solvent resistant.

Hazard to Human

When it is decomposed at higher temperatures it burns into its major three constituents: butadiene (carcinogenic to human), acrylonitrile (possibly carcinogenic for humans) and styrene. Even at lower temperatures, UFPs are produced which again have an adverse health impact on humans.

Recycling of ABS Plastic

It is a common thermoplastic used in the production of basic daily use products. Demand for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene resin is too high in the market and is continuously growing in recent years.

As virgin acrylonitrile butadiene styrene sometimes prove to be expensive as a raw material used in manufacturing plastic products, recycling of this ABS material has come into practice. It is more economical and attractive. Recycled acrylonitrile butadiene styrene can be used as a mixture of virgin material to produce products of low cost with high value.

The process involved in recycling- It is recycled first by shredding (converting used plastics to shredded plastics). Then metal and undesired plastics are separated from shredded plastics using water system with different velocities of water streams. After the separated plastics are analyzed the recovered form of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is again ready to be used with virgin ABS to produce a new product.

It can also be recycled by using “forth flotation” process. In this process, high purity plastics are separated by water streams from a mixture of plastics. Through this process, 99% of ABS plastic can be recovered.

Common Brand Names for ABS Material

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene material is manufactured on a large scale as it is the most demanded form of thermoplastic nowadays. Some of the prominent brand or trade names for ABS material are- Samsung Starex, Toray Toyolac, BASF Terluran, SABIC Cycolac, INEOS Lustran and LG ABS