Polyester Properties, Production, Price, Market and Uses

 

Polyester is world’s most commonly used polymer. This synthetic polymer is made from petroleum-derived ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. They are either thermoplastics or thermoset based on their chemical composition and structure. Majorly used Polyester polymer is thermoplastics.


 

Polyester Thread


What is Polyester?

Polyester is a kind of polymer with some specific materials. It is often defined as a long chain of polymers with a composition of 85% ester with a dihydric alcohol and terephthalic acid. It is a type of Polyethylene terephthalate used for any fabric or textile and made using polyester yarns and fiber.

It primarily includes naturally occurring chemicals like cutin of plant cuticles and synthetics formed by step-growth polymerization such as polybutyrate. Usually, natural polyesters are biodegradable while most of the synthetic ones are not.

These materials are extensively used in the clothing industry. They are also used for manufacturing number of other products such as bottles, films, tarpaulin, canoes, liquid crystal display, film insulation for insulating tapes and many others.

Classification

Majorly these materials can be classified into two broad categories which are:

  • Saturated Polyesters- These are those type which has saturated form of backbones. Thus, they are not as reactive as the unsaturated polyesters are. They usually have low molecular liquids and are used as plasticizers or reactants.
  • Unsaturated Polyesters- These are kind of materials which have their backbones of alkyl thermosetting resins characterized by vinyl Unsaturation. They are usually used for reinforced plastics. These are the most commonly used and economical family of resins.

History of Polyesters

It was first invented by British Chemist John Rex Whinfield and James Tennant Dickson. It became popular in 1970 when it was advertised as a kind of miracle fiber which was worn for 68 days and was still presentable without ironing.

Soon it became a cheap and easily available form of fabric. Nowadays this polyester fabric is being extensively used for clothing, furnishing, textiles and more.


Characteristics of Polyester

These materials inhibit following basic properties:

  • They are durable and resistant to many chemicals.
  • They also provide strong resistance against abrasion, wrinkle and stretching or shrinking.
  • It can easily retain its shape and hence is good for making outdoor clothes for harsh climates.
  • Resins are lightweight and extremely strong in nature.
  • They can be easily washed and dried.

Physical Properties

Tenacity- (5-7 gm/den) Polyester filaments and staple fibers are strong because of their crystalline nature and this nature permits formation of highly effective Vander Wall’s forces. The fiber inhibits good tenacity due to the hydrogen bonds and this tenacity remains unchanged even if it is wet.

Elastic-Plastic Nature- It has good elasticity. The crystalline nature of fiber prevents wrinkle and crease.

Hydrophobic Nature- These materials are hydrophobic in nature and dry quickly. This is due to the polarity and the very crystalline nature of resins which resist entry of water molecules.

Thermal Properties

The melting point is 250°C and is a poor conductor of heat with low resistance towards heat. It can easily melt on heating. As it is a thermoplastic fiber thus, is capable of being shaped or turned when heated.

Chemical Properties

Acids & Alkalis – They are resistant towards acids in cold conditions but degrades by H2S04 in high temperature.

Alkaline conditions are seen in laundering hydrolyze the ester group of the polymer. The crystalline nature prevents from hydrolysis to a great extent and usually, it is the surface which gets hydrolyzed.

Bleaches- It does not require bleaching and can easily retain its whiteness. If necessary chlorine bleaches are used.

Sunlight & Micro-organisms- It can withstand sun’s UV rays and is highly resistant to acidic pollutants present in the atmosphere. It is also resistant towards bacteria and other micro-organisms.

Color Fastness- It is difficult for dye molecules to penetrate in the fiber during the dying process. It retains its color after regular wash.

Solvent- Solvents for polyesters are Chlorinated Hydrocarbon, F3COOH, and Phenol (in hot conditions).


Production Process of Polyester

How is Polyester made?

It is made up of long chains of polymers. Today the two major kinds of materials produced are Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and poly-1, 4-cyclohexylene dimethylene (PCDT). PET is used on a wider range as it stronger than PCDT. However, in terms of elasticity and resilience, PCDT has more consumer uses.

These pellets or chips are synthesized from petroleum-based products. The process of synthesis is carried out using a chemical reaction which involves coal, petroleum, air, and water. These resins are made up of purified terephthalic acid (PTS) or dimethyl terephthalate (DMT)

The most common type of chemical reaction used to make these plastic materials occur at very high temperatures in vacuum. Usually, a petroleum by-product (alcohol) and carboxyl acids are mixed to produce a compound monomer or “ester” This reaction process is known as polymerization.

The polymer material created in the process of polymerization is further extruded into long fibers that are stretched for some time (Approximately 5 minutes) to gain original length.

How is Polyester Fiber Made?

These materials are produced in a very different and fascinating way. It is primarily an artificial man-made fiber.  These polymers are manufactured from petroleum from which the constituent acids and alcohols are derived.

Three basic steps involved in the synthesis of polyester are:

  • Condensation Polymerization- In this step acid and alcohol are reacted in a vacuum at very high temperatures. Once the process of polymerization has occurred the material is extruded to a casting in form of a ribbon. As it cools down the ribbon hardens and is cut into chips.
  • Melt-spun fiber- Further, in this step chips are dried completely, then the hopper reservoirs are used to melt these chips.As it is a melt-spun fiber, chips are heated, extruded through the spinnerets and cools upon hitting the air. Finally, it is loosely wound around cylinders.
  • Drawing– The resultant formed fibers are stretched to about five times their original length. This helps in reducing the width. As now the resin is ready in fiber form, it can be as filaments or can also be crimped and cut into staple lengths as per requirement.

Polyester Production

Global Polyester Production for 2016


Production of Polyester is accounted on the basis of its segments including the filament, staple, PET resin, Film & other resins.

The world production of polyester including the recycling portion for the year 2016 was 76.66 million tons. The global market was dominated by filaments which accounted for 44% of the total production in the market.  It was followed by staple accounting for 20.2% of market share in global production.

The remaining segments which covered the global market production included PET Resin shared (27.5%), Film had a market share of (5.3%) and other resins with (2.9%)

Polyester Industrial Filament Segmentation


Polyester material has different segments including Filament, Staple, Pet resins, Film & other resins. Among these segments, the filament has the maximum contribution in the global market share.

As the total amount of material produced in 2016 was 76.66 million tons and filament had the share of 44% of the total produce. Thus filament is one of the major segments of the market demand.

Industrial Filament can be further classified into different sub-segments including Tire cord, MRG, BRD and Narrow woven, Airbags, Sew threads, Rope and nets and many others.

These sub-segments have a difference in their usage application in industrial applications. Tire cord has maximum application in industries accounting for 29% followed by narrow woven with 19% contribution in the total market share.


Polyester Trading Price


Polyester Market

Global Consumption Share of Major Fibers


Polyester holds the major portion of share in Global Fiber Market. It holds more than half of the market share accounting for 55% followed by cotton holding 27% of the total market share.

Polyester and cotton are the two prominent fibers used globally and are strong competitors for each other. Cotton is still dominated by polyester fiber as it is cheaper, easily available, has good durability, easy to process and is wrinkle free.

Further, cellulosic hold 6% market share followed by nylon with 4.7% and polypropylene with 4% of the total market share.

Lastly Acrylic accounts for 2% and wool with the least contribution of 1.3% of the total fiber market for the year 2016.

Global & Regional Per-Capita Polyester Consumption

Global Polyester Per-Capita Consumption

The global per capita consumption accounted for 6.6 Kilograms per capita for the year 2016.

Asia-Pacific region has the maximum contribution to the global consumption of the material. Among these regions, China and India prove to be leaders in demand of this resin material.

China and India have witnessed growth in demand for the material in recent years due to following reasons:

  • Increasing industries of textiles, industrial fabrics, carpet and many others.
  • Rising construction activities (Furnishing & Flooring).
  • Rise in Economic growth and income level of consumers.
  • Rapidly increasing population & Urbanization in these countries.

As compared to India which has 3.1 kilograms of per capita consumption, China has much higher value for per capita consumption which is 22.9 Kilograms of per capita.

Sales of Polyester in the European Market for 2016

Polyester Sales in European Market

European countries are dominating the sales market of the polyester materials in the recent years. After Asian-Pacific regions Europe has the second highest demand for polyester material in the global market due to following reasons:

  • Abundant availability of raw materials (PET bottle flakes).
  • Rising industrial application and high demand for PSF material.
  • Increased demand for carpet & rugs due to cold climatic conditions.

European countries depict a good sales graph for this material in the year 2016. Italy is leading among all European countries with sales amounting to 419.74 kilo tons followed by Germany with sales of 389.12 kilo tons.

Other countries such as the Netherlands with a sales figure of 166.7 kilo tons and Spain with 133.51 kilo tons also have a good contribution in market share of European countries sale of the material for the year 2016.

World Polyester Fiber Market Forecast

World Polyester Fibre Market Forecast

Polyester staple fiber is one of the coherent materials of the global textile industry growing rapidly. It is a man-made fiber with versatility and unique properties that increase its demand in several end segment market.

Polyester fiber is used in areas including fiber filling, automotive, textile, filtration, home furnishing and many others.

Polyester fiber market has witnessed growth in recent years and is expected to increase its demand in near future owing to its qualities. The Market Size will be more than US$ 110 bn in 2019.

Market Segmentation

The fiber market is primarily classified on the basis of products as hollow and solid. The hollow fiber is used as fillers for clothing and other materials whereas the solid segment holds a major share of global fiber market, being used for a variety of other application in end segment markets.

Market Drivers

The global fiber market is majorly driven by a variety of the following factors:

  • Rising demand for textiles and growing industries in Asian-Pacific regions over the forecasted period.
  • This material offers superior properties and is more economical than its substitutes (nylon, wool, cotton and others) making it more preferred material for manufacturers.
  • Rising building and construction activities primarily in BRIC nations has fueled the market demand over years.
  • Growing awareness regarding environmental protection leads to rising demand for recycled staple fibers is also driving the global market demand.
  • The availability of sustainable clothing in a wide range of stylish designs, bright colors and attractive prints also supplement the product demand.

Market Constraints

Major products involved in manufacturing synthetic fibers include olefin, nylon, and polyester. The product is synthetically prepared from petroleum and is used widely for fabrics, textiles, rugs, and carpets etc.

Volatility in prices of petroleum leads to fluctuation in raw material prices, may act as growth barriers for the market demand.

Market Opportunity

The fiber market has the opportunity for growth in two major areas clothing (apparels) and furnishing (home furnishing& décor, mattresses).

  • Apparels segment majorly includes the sportswear clothing. With evolution in a textile technology, fashion houses have increased to use the polyester material in designing clothes. As this fiber is one of the most suitable alternatives for cotton (cheaper, thinner and available in a variety of designs).

    Nowadays these staple fibers are available in hi-tech nature, having antimicrobial properties that provide protection against bad odor and infections. These advance qualities have opened new opportunities in the global market demand.

  • Furnishing industry has become another major area of application for staple fibers. It is used in variety of furnishing applications including pillows, bed sheets, sofas, carpets and rugs

The application has increased in recent years as it has become more affordable and is available in different colors, texture, and fabrics according to present style demands.

The increasing demand for specialty mattresses due to increasing consumer’s preference towards environment-friendly products is one of the growing opportunities in the furnishing market.

Regional Outlook

Asia-Pacific holds major share in the global fiber market due to increasing use of textiles, carpet, home furnishing & décor and for industrial fabrics.

Rising economic growth, population, and construction activities (Furnishing & Flooring) in emerging economies of Asian-Pacific regions including India, China, South Korea and Taiwan are reasons for the growth of market demand in these countries.

Latin America also has emerged with new growth opportunities for fiber market due to the availability of cost-effective labor and availability of raw material in abundance in this region.

Though Europe and North America have slower growth rate but demand has been increasing in recent years due to growing exports from Asian countries and increasing demand for carpets and rugs in cold climatic conditions.

Key Market Players

The leading companies for this material in the global market are Reliance Industries, Indorama Ventures, William Barnet and Son, Green Fiber International, Sarla Performance Fibers, Polyfibre Industries, Toray Industries, Stein Fibers, Diyou Fibre, Silon s.r.o, Swicofil AG and others.


Global Trade of Polyester

Global Trade Balance

Global Trade Balance of Polyester

Polyester import in 2016 was worth of US$ 8 billion and export was US$ 7.77 bn. The trade balance (Export-Import) was positive since 2012. But from past two years 2015 and 2016 the trade balance is negative. The trade balance in 2016 was – US$ 0.23 billion. The trade balance has been increasing from past two years.

Top 15 Countries Exporting Polyester

World Top 15 Countries Exporting Polyester

Germany is the world’s largest exporter of the saturated polymer in 2016. It exported polymer worth of US$ 1171.1mn. The second largest exporter was United States which exported polymer worth of US$ 918mn. The Netherlands exported the polymer worth of US$ 591.6mn followed by China for US$ 547.4 mn.

Top 15 Countries Importing Polyester

World Top 15 Countries Importing Polyester

China is world’s largest importer of the polymer in 2016. It imported polymer worth of US$ 7.56bn followed by Germany which imported polymer worth of US$ 3.39bn. Germany was also world’s largest exporter of the polymer.

China alone imported twice as much as polymer than Germany which was world’s second largest importer in 2016. The United States was the third largest importer and it imported polymer worth of US$ 2.63bn.

In 2016, the trade balance was negative and countries import was more than export. The demand for the polymer was due to increasing demand for the polymer in the textile industry. China dominated the demand side of the market.


Applications and Uses of Polyester

Polyester is extremely important polymers used widely in a number of industrial applications (as a raw material) and variety of end segment uses.

Polyester as a raw material is used as fibers and films

As Fibers

The polymers are produced as small granules then they are melted and squeezed through fine holes and the resultant filament spun to form a fiber. This is known as Terylene or Dacron, used widely for clothing (suits, shirts, and skirts)

These fibers are also used for filling anoraks and bedding duvets to offer good heat insulation. Other uses of these fibers are car tire cord, conveyor belt, and hoses etc.

As Films

These materials can be converted into thin films which are used for food packaging, audio & video tapes, in electrical insulations and for X-ray films.

Two prominent applications of Polyesters on basis of their characteristics- Packaging & Imaging

As packaging 

The films made from these materials are used for packaging applications ranging from food & drugs to various industrial and consumer goods. Usually, PET films are used for packaging sector.

These films offer suitable characteristics for the packaging industry including:

  • Ease of processing
  • High strength
  • Resistance to high and low temperature
  • Crystal clarity and printability
  • Chemical resistance
  • Dimensional stability
  • Resistance towards moisture and other solvents

These films are used in different forms such as plain or metalize, heat-shrinkable or barrier coated, adhesions (including metal, lamination & extrusion coating) and printing or sealing.

Uses of this film in different forms of packaging

Packaging TypeExamples
Flexible PackagingStand up pouches, consumer goods (cosmetic, daycare etc.).
LiddingLeak resistant wraps, peelable seals (food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals).
Can LaminationsPolyester films to cover cans for consumables.
Metalized PackagingDecorations, embossed holographic applications (where high barrier resistance is required).
SusceptorsMicrowave susceptors (browning and cooking food in ovens).

 

As Imaging

The properties of these films make them highly applicable for imaging number of imaging applications. These applications include X-ray, photography, printing, microfilm, projection transparencies and drafting or reprographics.

The properties of films which help in imaging applications are:

  • Crystal clear nature
  • Very smooth and glossy
  • Availability of being translucent, opaque or colored according to the requirement
  • Suitable rough or matt finish according to requirement
  • High strength and tear resistance
  • Resistance towards chemicals and moisture
  • Dimensional stability along with longer shelf life.

Uses of Films for imaging in different areas include:

X-Ray

Films coated with gelatin-based photosensitive coatings are used for medical X-Rays.

Photographic

Usually, Pet films of 100 microns and 175 microns coated with silver sensitized layers are used photographic films and instant photographic applications.

Printing

They are used in a number of printing applications such as in layout, masking, pre-press proofing, plate mounting and photopolymer plates. They are even used for displays, signage, posters, labels etc.

Microfilm

These films are also used to create original and duplicates of micro-image documents, records, and drawings for easy storage, saving space and retrieval.

Photoresist & Photo Tool

They are used for plating or etching to produce rigid and flexible printed circuits in photo tools.

Overhead Projection Transparencies

The coated form of films is used for making overhead projection transparencies used for plain paper copying machines, overhead projection transparencies etc.

Drafting & Reprographic

Polyester (PET) films coated with matt or diazo-sensitized or silver sensitized lacquers is widely used for drafting and duplication of engineering drawings. These drawings are considered more convenient to make changes and for storage purpose.

Other Applications of Polyester

Electronic applications

These materials are widely used for electronic applications. It is even used an s a laminated for other substrates including nonwoven polyester matt and organic/inorganic papers (aramid paper, silica & mica paper).

In motor applications, it is used for ground insulations as slot liners & wedges even for phase insulations.  The polyester films are highly applicable for hermetic applications, thus widely used in refrigerator and air conditioners motor/ compressor assemblies

Properties which make polyester preferred material for a wide range of electrical insulation applications are:

Physical Properties include dimensional & thermal stability, chemical & electronic resistance, and coefficient of friction

Mechanical properties include tensile break strength, tensile yard strength, and elongation at break

Magnetic Applications

The properties of these resins make them highly applicable for a number if magnetic applications including video, camera recorder, audio tapes and data storage (floppy disk and computer tapes).

For magnetic applications materials or films used are coated with the magnetically receptive coating layer.

Use of Polyester in Garments

These materials are being extensively used for manufacturing of variety of kinds of clothes (majorly sportswear) and home furnishing (bed sheets, pillows, furniture, carpets and curtains etc)

Quality of high tenacity, good durability, and wrinkle resistant, easy to wash & dry make this material as a good choice of fabric. As it is hydrophobic in nature thus, proves to be an ideal choice for ideal clothing to be used in wet and damp environment conditions.

Besides being used for clothing they are used for manufacturing products like climbing suits, parkas, sleeping bags and even suits to be used for windsurfing and many other outdoor activities supporting material.

Industrial Applications

These materials are now days commonly used to make plastic bottles to store beverages. This has come as a boon for beverage industry as it is cheaper and shatterproof.

Another industrial usage of these resins is as Mylar used for manufacturing balloons. These are not the basic rubber balloons but the decorated ones used as gifts or on occasions for decorations.

They are also used to manufacture high strength ropes, threads, hoses, sails, floppy disk liners, power belting and much more in industries.


Recycling of Polyester

These materials are made from petroleum, a non-renewable source of energy that means the environment is damaged during its extraction. It is not very hazardous as it is being recycled on a very large scale.

It is commonly recycled in form of textile material using clear plastic water bottles or the PET as a prime source of raw material. The recycling process involves following steps:

  • The collected PET bottles are sterilized, dried and then crushed into small chips.
  • Further, these chips are heated and made to pass through a spinneret from strings of yarn.
  • Then the yard is wound up in form of spools.
  • After this fiber is made to pass through a crimping machine to get a fluffy wooly texture
  • Lastly, the yarn is baled, dyed and knitted into polyester fabric.

In this recycling process, the most common form of textile made using recycled material is fleece which is a knitted pile fabric often, being used by outdoor clothing companies to primarily manufacture jackets.

Global Top 8 Brands Using Recycled Polyester

More than 45 textile, apparel, and retail companies have pledged to commit their support and increase the use of recycled polyester (rPET) in the manufacturing of their products by at least 25% till 2020. Some of these companies include Adidas, Marks & Spencer, H&M, Timberland, GAP Inc, Lindex and many others.

Top 8 Brands Consuming Recycled Polyester by Volume in 2016

  • Nike

Nike Recycled Polyester NBA UniformNike is leading company in 2016 to use recycled polyester in producing various outfit. NBA had partnered with Nike for developing its four new primary uniforms.

Nike is using Alpha yarns with recycled polyester to produce the uniform. The uniform has better sweat removal capability and Nike is able to meet its sustainability goal. It says that 20 recycled PET bottles approximately is used to make a single uniform.

Nike says that it has used 3 billion bottles since 2010 as recycled polyester which otherwise would have gone to landfill. Nike is aggressively using recycled polyester and say’s that more than 70% of its apparel and shoes contained recycled material.

 

  • The North Face

The North FaceOutdoor clothing manufacturer The North Face was the second largest brand to use recycled polyester by volume for clothing and other outfits. It has set an ambitious target of using 100% recycled polyester for all its polyester fabrics by 2016.

The North Face is increasing the use of recycled plastics in fabrics which is primarily sourced from a used water bottle and soda bottles.

 

 

  • Decathlon

Decathlon Recycled Polyester ClothingSporting goods manufacturer Decathlon was the third largest brand to use recycled polyester for sporting wear. Decathlon aims to use more recycled polyester from plastics bottle.

Decathlon reports that with woman’s Forclaz 50 it has recycled 10 million plastics bottle (1 liter) which would have resulted in 621 tons of waste. Along with this, it has saved 43% water, 58% energy and 54% of CO2 emissions.

 

  • H&M

H&M Recycled Polyester Active Wear CollectionClothing giant H&M was the fourth largest consumer of recycled polyester in 2016 for its clothing. It has set-up an ambitious target of becoming completely circular by 2030. It is working to source all its material from recycled polyester and other sustainable material by 2030.

 

 

  • Target

Target ClothingClothing retailer Target was fifth largest consumer of recycled polyester for its clothing brands. It has also partnered with Repreve for its fashion outfits. The raw materials used are waste plastics bottle.

Target says that since July 2016 to April 2017 they have recycled 250 million of plastics bottles. According to Target if one were to line up the bottle this quantity would wrap the Mall Of America three times.

 

  • Patagonia

Pantagonia Recycled Polyester ClothingThis brand is a well-known promoter of recycled material. It has a partnership with Teijin, a Japanese company who have developed their own closed-loop polyester recycling system.

They even repair the used garments and offer discounts to customers if they bring back used clothes for recycling.

 

 

 

  • Williams Sonoma

William Sonoma Recycled Polyester RugWilliams Sonoma was the seventh largest consumer of recycled polymer for its line of textile products. It is a leading company in responsible sourcing of its raw materials.

 

 

 

 

  • Timberland

Timberland Recycled Polyester ShoesThis cult boot company has been adding recycled bottles to their shoes by using them to create soles. Nowadays it is also turning the waste bottle into a thread for its non-leather boots.

Till date, more than 23 million bottles have been used by the company to produce shoes & boots. The brand claims to have 100% of the foot wears to be made of a recycled material by 2020.