Polyamide Properties, Production, Price, Market, and Uses

Polyamide (Nylon) is a generic name given to all kind of long-chain fiber-forming polyamide having recurring amide groups in them.  It is the largest family of engineering plastics with a variety of applications.

 

 

Polyamide Tents

What is Polyamide?

“Nylons” refer to the group of plastics known as polyamides. They are basically polymer substances composed of a long and multiple numbers of molecules in which the repeating units are linked by amide groups.

These resins are available both naturally and also in artificial form.  Primarily naturally occurring polyamides comprise of proteins like wool & silk and artificially polymers are made by the process of polymerization or synthesis of materials like nylons, aramids & sodium poly (aspartate).

They provide a broad range of properties and uses especially used for the production of film & fiber and are also available for molding compounds.

They are used for a number of end segment applications including textiles, automotive, carpets, and sportswear due to their strength and durability.


History

It was first discovered in 1931 by W.H. Carothers while researching for polyesters & Polyamides. These nylons became commercial on the 28th October 1938 when they were introduced by DuPont.

The first kind of polymer produced was Nylon 66 by the reaction of adipic acid (a 6- carbon dibasic acid) and hexamethylene diamine (a 6- carbon aliphatic diamine).

In following years Polyamide (Nylon) became popular with usage in nylon stockings and till the late 1950s, they became a popular form of polymers being used on a large scale for a number of applications.


Properties

These plastic polymers inhibit unique and suiting properties for a countless number of applications. These properties include

  • PA has high heat stabilization ability
  • They are lubricated
  • Flame Retardant
  • Impact Modified
  • Chemically resistant
  • Halogen-free
  • Highly stiff in nature
  • Dimensional Stability

Physical Properties

Tensile Strength – 90-185 N/mm2

Notched Impact Strength- 5.0 – 13 Kj/m2

Thermal Coefficient of expansion- 90-20/70*10-6

Max Cont Use Temp – 150-185°C

Density – 1.13- 1.35/1.41 g/cm3

Chemical Resistance

They have good resistance to dilute alkalis and are poorly resistant towards dilute acids

They are very good resistant towards Aliphatic Hydrocarbons & Aromatic Hydrocarbons.

For oil & greases, they have good resistance.

For halogenated hydrocarbons, they are having moderate resistance.


Polyamide Production Process and Capacity

Polyamide Production Process

It is formed by two methods. Two numbers arise from the first, in which the condensation reaction takes place between diamines & dibasic acids producing a nylon salt as a result.

The first number refers to carbon atoms in the diamine and the second one is the quantity present in the acid.

The second process involves opening up a monomer which contains both amine & acid group and is known as lactam ring. Its identity is based on the number of atoms present in the lactam monomer.

Global Production of Polyamide

Global Production of Polyamide

The market has witnessed tremendous amount of increase in production of these polymers in recent years. This increase in production is due to increased demand for these resins in a number of end segment markets.

Primarily the production market is driven by the excessive demand of PA6 and PA66 polyamide in the automotive and electronics sector. Increased demand for lightweight vehicles is boosting the global PA production market at a very high rate.

In 2016 the global PA polymer production amounted to 7.8 million tons which can be further segmented into two prominent polymers used PA6 & PA66.

The production of the PA6 polymer was 4.4 million tons in 2016. While the production of PA66 was 3.4 million tons in 2016.

Polyamide Fiber Production (2016)

Global Production of Polyamide Fibers

As the statistics depict, there has been a continuous growth in production of these fibers in recent years. The production of fibers has increased from 4.1 million tons in the year 2013 to 5.5 million tons in the year 2016.

High-quality performance of these types of fibers makes them an ideal choice for manufacturers over their competitors (polyester). It is costlier in production than others but is still demanded for a number of applications due to its suiting properties.

There is a significant amount of growth in production of PA fibers due to increased demand from different end segment industries. They are used for the production of a variety of products in different sectors such as carpets, ropes, sewing thread, sleeping bags, net and many others.


Polyamide Trading Price


Classification of Polyamides

PolyamidesExamplesCommercial Products
Aliphatic PANylon PA 6 & PA 66Zytel (DuPont), Technyl (Solvay), Rilsan (Arkema)
PolyphthalamidesPA 6TTrogamid T (Evonik), Amodel (Solvay)
AramidsParaphenylenediamine + terephthalic acidKevlar & Nomex (DuPont), Teijinconex (Teijin)

 

Two Prominent Polyamides

These polymers are available in a number of different forms but the two prominent kinds which have their usage primarily in end segment markets are PA6 & PA66.

These two kinds of polymers are used on a very large scale for a variety of applications in end segments majorly they are being used in producing automotive parts, electrical appliance and in some of the construction activities.

Polyamide 6 (PA6)

It is a kind of condensation polymer formed by ring-opening polymerization. These polymers are usually sold under the brand name like Perlon, Nylatron, Capron, Ultramid, Akulon, Kapron and Durethan.

Properties – They are tough with high tensile strength and also inhibit good elasticity. These type of polymer grades are wrinkleproof and resistant towards abrasion and chemicals.

Applications- They are being highly used in automotive, electrical and textile segment to produce a variety of daily use goods. Due to this suiting properties, they are highly used in spots segment (clothes, equipment, mats etc)

Polyamide 66 (PA66)

These kinds of polymers are made of two monomers each containing 6 carbon atoms as its name suggests.

Features- They have a good surface appearance along with excellent water absorption quality. It has a high amount of modulus with better wear resistance and rigidity.

Applications – They have their usage in a variety of segments to produce goods such as pipes, machine parts, zip ties, conveyor belts, hoses, 3D structural objects, apparels, airbags, carpet fibers and many others.


Polyamide Market Demand and Forecast

Global Consumption of Polyamide

PA consumption has been increasing globally in recent years owing to its increased usage in varied end-segment industries including electronics, furniture, automobiles and other consumer goods

Total Polyamide consumption for the year 2016 was 7.4 million tons among which PA fibers & Films held the major share of 55% having its consumption majorly in the textile industry for sportswear, clothing & protection clothes.

However, PA compounds global consumption share was 45% in 2016 owing to its varied applications such as usage in stadium seats, furniture, wires, sports goods & equipment etc.

Regional Demand for Polyamides 

The total global consumption of polyamide was 7.4 million tons with Asian region leading consumer of the polymer. Asian- Pacific regions dominate the global market demand with holding the total share of 59% in the total demand for the year 2016.

The global market has witnessed high growth in the Asian-Pacific regions due to increased usage of these materials in end segment industries including automotive, electronics, packaging, textiles, building and construction etc.

Among all the Asian-Pacific regions China has the maximum share in the global market demand due to rising population, improvement in financial status and increased consumer demands (like luxury cars).

China holds a market share of 39% in the total market demand for the year 2016 and remaining Asian regions hold 20% of the market share.

Asian- Pacific regions are further followed by American regions (North & South America) with the share of 21% of the total market demand. These regions have also witnessed a rise in demand due to increased usage in automobile & electronics market.

The Europe & Middle East African countries are expected to experience higher growth in coming years owing to its increased auto sales, rising construction activities & initiatives were taken by the government for improved infrastructure. In the year 2016, these regions contributed up to 20% of the total market demand.

Polyamide (Primary Form, -6, -11, -12, -6,6, -6,9, -6,10 or -6,12) Sales in Europe

Polyamide (-6, -11, -12, -6,6, -6,9, -6,10 or -6,12) Sales in Europe

 

The European market held a major share in global PA market in the year 2016 where Italy & Poland were major players in primary sales of the regional market.

The growing demand for high quality and long-lasting consumer electronics is fueling the demand for these polymers in Europe. Primarily this market is dominated by electronics sector which is further followed by consumer goods & appliances segment.

Nowadays due to increasing demand for lightweight vehicles in European countries, demand for these plastic materials has witnessed growth in sales from automotive sector also.

As depicted in the stats Italy is the leading country with 375.7 thousand kilograms of sale in the year 2016. It is further followed by Poland with the sale of 224.92 thousand kilograms.

Other European countries with prominent sales of these resins in thousand kilograms include Belgium (210.69), France (177.5), Netherland (172.34), Spain (109.13), Finland (66.7), Denmark (56.47), UK (42.37) and Lithuania with (2.67).

Major companies operating in the European market are Evonik Industries AG (Germany), Arkema S.A. (France), and Rhodia S.A. (France).

Polyamide Textile Filament Yarn Sales in Europe

Polyamide Textile Filament Yarn Sales in Europe 

These are polymers containing repeated amide linkages. They are available in two forms natural and artificial. The natural form (wool & silk) have a large number of applications in European textile market.

Nowadays PA fibers are facing strong competition from Polyesters in different usage areas. Though polyester is cheaper in production but still due to high-quality performance PA polymers are preferred for a number of applications.

These materials are processed into textile Filament (NTF), industrial filament (NIF) and carpet filament (PA BCF) and are highly demanded for production of carpets, airbags, seat belt, tire cord, ropes, sewing thread, nets, sleeping bags, tarpaulins, and nets etc.

European countries hold a major share in the global sales of these textile filament yarns, primarily The Western European countries. Italy is the leading country among others with the annual sales of 55,589 Thousand Kilograms in the year 2016.

It is followed by Spain with sales of 7512 thousand kg & Estonia with the sale amount of 2406 thousand kg in 2016. Other countries include UK (137.34) and Denmark (0.027) thousand kg sales annually.

Global Market Forecast for Polyamides

Polyamide Industry Forecast

The market for PA plastics has witnessed continuous growth in recent years. The global market is estimated at US$ 30bn in 2021.

Market Drivers

Factors driving global market include:

  • Growing demand from automotive industry due to their high performance and low cost.
  • Increasing demand from electronics and coating industry due to high insulating properties and strong resistance to wear & chemicals.
  • High demand for these materials in the construction sector is also fueling the market demand.
  • Increased disposable income and rising population

Market Restraints

Factors that hamper the market growth include:

  • Complex manufacturing process involved with the production of these materials.
  • Availability of raw materials.
  • Degrading properties due to its moisture absorption property.

Market Opportunity

There are several numbers of growing market opportunities which have the capability of driving the market demand in near future.  These opportunities include:

  • Research & Development in the field of bio-based polyamide production.
  • High investment by manufacturers in R&D activities.
  • These materials are highly being used as an alternative for metals (especially in automotive sector).
  • Increasing applications in food contact & domestic products.
  • Government regulations & health awareness to increase usage of bio-based PA resins.

Regional Outlook

The global market is dominated by Asian-Pacific regions, Europe & North America due to increasing demand for these polymers from automotive & electronic sectors.

Asian-Pacific highly dominated the market in the year 2016 due to increased usage from a number of end segments. These industries include automotive, consumer goods, electrical & electronics, buildings & construction along with fiber and textiles.

Competitive Outlook

The major key players involved in the production of these polymers include BASF SE (Germany), Li Peng Enterprise Co. Ltd, (Taiwan), Royal DSM (Netherlands), Ascend Performance Materials LLC (U.S.), Arkema SA (France), and Evonik Industries AG (Germany)


Global Trade of Polyamide

Trade Balance

Trade Balance of Polyamide

Global trade balance of PA polymer in primary form is negative from 2012 to 2016. The exports of PA polymer are less than the imports. The trade balance in 2016 is negative as imports are more than exports.

The export in 2016 is US$ 2.79bn while the import is worth of US$ 3.36bn.

World Top 10 Exporting Countries

Top 10 Exporter of Polyamide

Germany is the world’s largest exporter of Polyamide polymer. It exported polymer worth of US$ 606.2mn. The second largest exporter of the PA polymer is the United States. It exported polymer worth of US$ 496.8mn followed by Netherlands (US$ 253.2mn)

World Top 10 Importing Countries

Top 10 Importer of Polyamide

Polyamide usage is rapidly increasing in the automotive sector. Demand for bio-based polyamide is also increasing due to it eco- friendly nature. Polyamide 6 (PA 6) is the most dominant type of Polyamide brought in use in a variety of products and fiber application is the fastest growing application for polyamide market.

Asia-Pacific has been the dominant polyamide market in 2016 with increased usage in various end segment markets. China was the leading consumer for both domestically produced and imported primary form of polyamide in the global market importing worth US$ 542.1mn followed by Germany with the worth of US$ 390.3.

The other major importing countries of polyamide for 2016 were Hong Kong (US$ 302mn), United States (US$ 189.7mn), Japan (US$ 181.6mn), Belgium (US$ 161mn), France (US$139.1 mn), India (US$138.3 mn), Italy (US$ 114.5mn) and South Korea (US$ 107.8mn).


Applications & Uses of Polyamide

It is one of the largest engineering thermoplastic materials and finds its applications in several segments. These segments include:

Automobile

These plastic polymers (PA 6) are often used to replace metal being used in automotive parts where there is an essential requirement of design, flexibility as well as temperature and chemical resistance.

It is commonly used to manufacture automotive parts like door handling, radiator grilles, airbag containers air-intake manifolds, relay boxes and engine covers etc.

Mostly PA is used to replace the metals in automotive parts due to its following properties:

  • Excellent surface appearance & flow characteristics
  • High chemical, UV & heat resistance
  • Strong mechanical properties (stiffness & toughness)
  • Easy paint and better finish
  • Short injection cycles
  • Easy & fast processing capability
  • Excellent weld line strength

Electrical

Theses plastic resin materials especially PA 6 is highly used for a number of electronic applications like low voltage switch gears, circuit breakers, contactors, connectors, tubes used in wiring & cable protection and others.

Features that make these materials as an ideal choice for electronic applications are:

  • They have good electrical insulating properties
  • Laser marking ability
  • Low flammability
  • High stiffness and toughness
  • Excellent flow characteristic
  • Weight is less than metal tubes.
  • Posses high heat distortion temperature

Fiber & Textile

Nowadays they are being widely used in the manufacturing of fibers, textiles, and carpets to produce different kinds of rugs, bristles, brushes, brooms etc

Features that make this material applicable for these applications include:

  • They have superior appearance retention because of outstanding resilience.
  • Highly resistant towards dirt, wear, chemicals, crushing and matting.
  • It is easy to clean.

Other Applications Include:

ApplicationsRelated Features
Furniture segment -Stadium seats–         Good surface quality.

–         High resistance to dirt & aging

–         Alternative to polypropylene

Sports- Ski bindings–         Good fatigue properties

–         High impact & mechanical strength

Household/consumer goods- Power tool housing–         Heat resistance & impact strength

–         Easy processability

Packaging- Food packaging with mono or multilayers–         Highly transparent & puncture resistant

–         Barrier resistance for oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other aromas

 

Advantages & Disadvantages of Polyamide

These plastic materials are nowadays commonly used for a countless number of applications in different sectors. They have witnessed continuous growth in production and consumption in the recent years owing to its suitable properties.

It offers a number of advantages which make it an ideal choice for manufacturers. These benefits include:

  • Low coefficient of friction
  • High resistance to odd temperatures
  • Abrasion & chemical resistance
  • They are tough, strong with high impact resistance
  • Easy processability by thermoplastic methods.

Although they have a number of benefits, still there is a certain number of limitations associated with their usage. These limitations include:

  • They possess higher moisture absorption with dimensional instability
  • Require Ultra Violet stabilization
  • High shrinkage in molded sections
  • Moisture affects mechanical & electrical properties
  • Can be attacked by strong acids & oxidizing agents
  • They can even be dissolved by phenols.

What is the difference between the Polyester & Polyamide?

Both the synthetic fibers are highly torn- proof and resistant towards abrasion with low moisture absorption and also stretchy along with crease free.

PA polymers have the highest amount of resistance level as compared to all other raw materials (even if it is wet) and are very stretchy in nature whereas Polyester has excellent return conduct as it is very light. It can easily retain its shape along with resistance for sweat & UV rays.

Basic Differences

  • Polyesters carry ester functional group whereas, in PA, amide functional group is present.
  • Its monomer should have a carboxylic & an amine group, whereas polyesters should have a carboxylic group along with a hydroxyl group.
  • It is a thermoplastic kind of polymer but, polyesters can be thermoplastic or thermoset depending on their chemical structure.
  • They provide more natural feeling than the polyesters.
  • The polyester fabrics are more wrinkle resistant than these.
  • PA (Nylons) is always synthetic in nature but polyesters can be produced by natural ingredients also (like cutin obtained from plant cuticles).

Recycling

Recycling of these polymers is essential as their presence in landfills can be dangerous, they may result in fire emitting hazardous gases in the environment.

The maximum usage of this polymer (especially PA6) is in carpets and they should be recycled to maintain a balance.

DuPont took an initiative in 1944 to recycle these carpets. It has started a program named The Carpet Reclamation Program where carpets are collected from 80 collection locations in The United States and they are recycled.

Different ways of Recycling

De-polymerization or chemical recycling – This method is used to disintegrate long chains into monomers that can be polymerized and again converted into a quality virgin polymer.

Extracting Recycling Or Recovery – This method is used to recover individual components from the polymeric mixture without gaining the monomer level.

Mechanical Recycling or Re-melting – It is done to perform melt-blending of the complete structure form and breakdown of melted polymeric form.

Thermal Recycling – In this process, only energy is recovered during the incineration of the polymer waste.

Applications of the Recycled form of Polymer

The recycled for of PA polymers can be reused for a number of uses such as carpet cushioning, automotive parts, roofing shingles, composite lumber, flooring material, highway noise abatement panels, packaging, and others.