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PMMA: 3A SEES DEMAND BOOST FROM COVID-19

May 7, 2020
Polymethyl Methacrylate (PMMA) sales increase as demand surges for protective sheets

LONDON (GC Intelligence) – 3A Composites has seen a surge in PMMA demand for protection walls in the UK and Europe as countries step up the battle against COVID-19.

The company said in a recent press note that it had to rump up production by 300% to meet the spike in demand for clear acrylic sheets used as protective walls.

Many workers need protection walls to keep safe against the spread of the virus, in places such as stores and hospitals.

The company said it shifted production away from other areas to focus on clear acrylic sheets.

Context

Clear plastics have seen a spike in demand since the start of the outbreak. Public and private companies are increasing efforts to protect workers.

PMMA joins polycarbonate (PC), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) as product of choice to help fight the spread of the virus.

The unpredictable nature of the virus means the scenario is changing every day. Governments are slowly easing lock-down measures and workers need protection.

Plastic will continue to find new applications to help the process. PMMA will play surely a big role.

News circulated that in Italy PMMA could be used to separate people on beaches. While this was dismissed as unworkable given the side effect of sticking people in clear plastic boxes in the sun, it shows the potential reach for clear plastics.

Market

PMMA prices had been suffering heavy losses for a year before the pandemic hit the market. Poor demand, competitive imports, and lower costs were already in place, having brought prices below €1500/mt.

When countries entered lock-down, there was panic. Key segments such as automotive shut down. But then new demand for protective walls emerged. This is now offsetting the losses elsewhere, or at least limiting the damage.

PMMA will continue to play a big role in the fight against the virus, even if some sectors will continue to suffer.

PMMA is used in many industries that have been heavily impacted by the virus. Some of the popular applications include lighting in the construction and auto sector, advertising, and office equipment.

The feedstock Methyl Methacrylate (MMA) is also suffering from a decrease in demand from the coatings and paint sectors, in construction and automotive.

Background

PMMA, also known as acrylic, is a rigid thermoplastic. Some of its advantages are transparency, resistance to UV light and weathering. The main disadvantages are low impact and heat resistance. Applications include rear car lights, skylights, security barriers etc.

Production

The major suppliers of PMMA resins operating in Europe are Lucite International, Röhm and Arkema.

NOTE: For price indices, forecasts, and a more in-depth market analysis take a look at the GC INTELLIGENCE® Market Reports…

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