Polyacetals (POM) Properties, Production, Price, Market and Uses

Polyacetals also known as Polyoxymethylene (POM) is a high volume engineering plastic also termed as acetal or polyformaldehyde. These resins are widely used in a number of segments including mechanical, automotive, plumbing, hardware, electronics & machinery.

 

Polyacetals Plastics Gear

What is Polyacetals (POM)?

POM is one of the major forms of engineering plastics among all others. It is one of the most crystalline forms of structure recognized for its good fatigue & creep resistance with low friction and good performance at elevated cold temperature.

Its unique and suiting properties make it an ideal choice for a countless number of end segment markets such as electronics, automotive and variety of mechanical parts.


History

It was discovered by a German Chemist Hermann Staudinger. Initially, these polymers were not commercialized due to problems of thermal stability.

Later in 1952, a research chemist at DuPont synthesized these resins, and in finally 1960 DuPont constructed a plant to produce these acetals commercially named Derlin.


Properties of Polyacetals

POM plastics offer following properties suiting several kinds of applications:

  • High impact strength even at low temperatures
  • Low amount of moisture absorption
  • The high amount of strength rigidity along with toughness
  • Excellent resilience/recovery elasticity
  • Highly resistant towards hydrolysis (up to ~60 °C)
  • Outstanding wear & creep resistance along with sliding properties.
  • Higher dimension stability
  • Low wear and friction
  • Solvent & fuel resistant

Polyacetals Production

Production Process

Different kind of manufacturing processes are involved in producing different versions on PM (PMH &POM-C)

Homopolymer

To produce PMO-H anhydrous formaldehyde is generated by the reaction of aqueous formaldehyde with the usage of alcohol to create hemiformal dehydration of mixture and release formaldehyde.

Further, they are polymerized by anionic catalysis and producing a stabilized form of the polymer by reaction of acetic anhydride.

Co-polymer

POM-C is produced by converting formaldehyde into trioxane through acid catalysis, further followed by purification of trioxane by distillation or extraction to remove water.

Different chemical firms produced theses POMs resins with slightly different formulas and sold under various brand names such as Delrin, Celcon, Ramtal, Duracon, Kepital, and Hostaform.

Fabrication of POM resins

POM resins are supplied in granulated form and can be molded into any kind of the desired shape by applying heat & pressure. Injection molding & rotational molding are the most commonly used forming methods for these kinds of polymers.

Even rotational molding & blow molding is possible in some instances.

Injection molded POMs can be used for gear wheels, ski bindings, yoyos, fasteners & lock systems. They are majorly used in automotive & consumer electronic industries

Global Production Capacity and Leading Manufacturers

The total production capacity of Polyacetals was 18.5 million tons/year in 2016. Production of these resins is increasing due to rising demand from varied sectors such as electronics, automotive and other end-segments regions.

Leading Manufacturers of Polyacetals

The leading manufacturers of these resins in 2016 were Polyplastics with 16.3% of market share, followed by Celanese with 13.3% of the total market share.

Other major producers of POM resin were DuPont with 10% market shares, Korea Engineering Plastics with 7.9% and many others.

Regional Production Capacity

Regional production of POM resins is also increasing due to rising demand from various end segment markets. Asia dominates the global market in the production of these polymers, and among all Asian regions, China is the largest producer.

Asia drives the production market due to rising demand from automotive and electrical segments.

China holds 30.5% of the total market share in global production followed by Europe with 17.3% of the market share.

Other regions include Korea (12.6%), US (11.7%), Japan (9.9%), Malaysia (7.5%), Thailand (6.2) and others with the worth of 4.4%


Polyacetals Trading Price


Grades Available

Two commonly available form of POM acetal polymers is acetal homopolymers (POM-H) and acetal copolymers (POM-C).

The difference between these forms of the polymer depends on their properties. POM-H is highly crystalline along with slightly higher density, hardness, and strength.

However, POM-C has higher chemical resistance along with low melting point as compared to POM-H.

Comparative Properties between two grades

Homopolymer POM-H (Delrin)Co-polymer POM-C (Celcon)
Produced by polymerizing formaldehydeProduced by copolymerization with formaldehyde & ethylene oxide
15% higher tensile strengthIncreased thermal stability due to the C-C bond
20% higher modulusMore flexibility
20% higher impact strengthtwice the elongation
20% higher surface hardness20% less water absorption
20% higher fatigue limit

 

Commercial Grades Polyacetals in Market

Commercial grades of POM are available under the different trade names including Delrin, Duracon, Celcon (copolymer) and Ultraform (copolymer).

Rubber-toughened grades of polyacetal resins are also available for more demanding applications, where there is a requirement of higher impact and flexural strength.


Polyacetal Market Analysis

Global Consumption

Global Consumption of Polyacetals

Global Consumption of Polyoxymethylene is increasing over the years owing to its increased demand from electrical, automotive and consumer appliances.

Other consumption areas of these resins include industrial applications, plumbing, sheets/rods/tubes, and medical products (such as pacemakers, artificial heart valves, etc.)

Global consumption for these POM resins has increased from 1.03 million tons in 2012 to 1.2 million tons in the year 2016.

Consumption By Region

Along with the global consumption, the regional demand for these plastic resin materials is also increasing over the years.

Major consumption is from Asian Regions due to increased demand for consumer articles/appliances, electrical and automotives. Among all the Asian regions China dominated the market demand and was the largest consumer in 2016.

China consumed 47 % of the global share owing to its high consumption from two major sectors electrical and automotive. China is followed by Europe sharing 26% of the total market share in consumption.

The United States is another prominent region in consumption of polyacetals sharing 11.5% of the total market in consumption from different segments.

Remaining regions share 15.5% of market share in global consumption.


Global Trade of Polyacetals

Trade Balance

Global Trade Balance of Polyacetals

Global Trade balance of POM polymer in primary form is negative from 2012 to 2016. The exports for these polymers are less than their imports in 2016 thus the trade balance is negative.

The export in 2016 is US$ 1.92bn, and import is worth of US$ 2.1bn.

World Top 10 Exporting Countries of Polyacetals

Top 10 Exporter of Polyacetals

Demand for these plastic polymers is increasing due to shifting in consumer preference towards low emission and lightweight vehicles globally.

In recent years market has witnessed increased export and import of these resins for manufacturing consumer and Industrial products.

Germany was the largest exporter of these polymers in 2016 with the value worth US$ 365.5 million followed by The United States with the value worth $317.9 million.

The other top exporting countries include South Korea ($218.1 mn), Belgium ($201. 7mn), Hong Kong ($149.8 mn), Malaysia ($145.3 mn), Japan ($144.1 mn), Taiwan ($102.7 mn) and China ($65.8 mn).

World Top 10 Importing Countries of Polyacetals

Top 10 Importer of Polyacetals

To meet the increasing demand of these resins in varied sectors, different countries are importing them on a large scale. In the year 2016, China was the largest importer of POM with the importing worth of $569.7 million.

Belgium followed China and Hong Kong importing worth US$153.7 million and US$148.4 million annually in 2016.

Other global major importers include Germany ($120.1 mn), Mexico ($105.2 mn), Italy ($73.8 mn), The United States ($71.7mn), France ($69.8mn) and India with ($53.8mn).


Applications & Usage

Acetals are high volume produced engineering plastic worldwide. The global production of these polymers is continuously increasing usage in different segments.

These applications of POM plastics include:

  • They are used in mechanical gears, sliding, guiding elements, housing parts, springs, chains, screws, nuts, pump parts and valve bodies, etc.
  • In medical segment, these resins are used in the production of insulin pen, meter dose inhalers (MDI).
  • Some grades of POM plastics have been approved by Food &Drug Administration to be used for milk pumps, coffee spigots, filter housing & food conveyors.
  • They are used in furniture segment for hardware, locks, handles & hinges.
  • In packaging sector – aerosol cans & vehicle tanks.
  • Electrical & Electronics – insulators, bobbins, connectors and some parts of electronic devices such as television, telephones, etc.
  • Automotive – used in fuel sender unit, switches (including light shifter & turn signal), power windows, door locking system & even in articulated shells.
  • Sports – paintball accessories, machining parts of games, handles, airsoft guns (to balance noise level).
  • They are used in all kinds of Zippers used in the clothing sector.
  • Musical Instruments – used in a variety of musical instruments including Irish flutes, bagpipes, practice chanters, mouthpieces of instruments & tips of some drumsticks.
  • Tobacco products – Delrin grade of POM polymer is used in the manufacturing of lighters.

Advantages & Disadvantages

These resins are used for a number of applications owing to its supporting properties and ease of usage. They have a number of advantages over there alternatives which include:

  • They are highly crystalline which leads to excellent strength, stiffness, surface hardness & also enhances barrier properties.
  • It offers the benefit of being non-sensitive towards polar solvents, thus absorb less water.
  • Good slip & wear resistance

Though these plastic polymer posses number of benefits for their usage but, they also have certain limitations such as:

  • They have low ceiling temperatures due to which they usually become unstable at ambient & elevated temperatures and get easily de-polymerize.
  • These plastic polymers have poor UV stability thus, prolonged exposure to UV rays causes degradation, leading to color change & loss of strength.