A new study by Business Communications Co. Inc. of Norwalk, CT, tells us the market for resins and elastomers used under the hood in the U.S. is expected to rise from 1.1 billion lbs. (450 million kg) in 1998 to 1.4 billion lbs. (635 million kg) in 2003, registering a 4.8% annual growth rate.

Engine-related applications led by intake manifolds and fuel systems will be the major drivers. These two segments alone - nylon (manifolds) and high density polyethylene (fuel tanks) - will account for more than half the total resin growth over the next five years, BCC says.

Commodity thermoplastics will have the highest consumption. They amount to 463 million lbs. (210 million kg) in 1998 and will reach 582.8 million lbs. (264 million kg) by 2003, representing an annual growth rate of 4.7%. Engineering plastics, the second largest market at 361.4 million lbs. (164 million kg) this year, are predicted to be the fastest growing category. It's expected to reach 480 million lbs. (218 million kg) in five years, representing 5.9% annual growth. Thermoplastic elastomers and polymer alloys/blends also are forecast to have growth rates higher than 5%, but overall consumption levels are much smaller compared with the other categories.

Use of thermoset elastomers and thermoset resins, on the other hand, is expected to grow slowly, BCC predicts. Thermoset resins will increase from 111.9 million lbs. (51 million kg) in 1998 to 134.7 million lbs. (61 million kg) during the next five years, representing a 3.8% annual growth rate. Thermoset elastomers will have a growth rate of only 2.6%, the study indicates, rising from 151.3 million lbs. (68 million kg) to 172.4 million lbs. (79 million kg) in 2003. The study, Plastics/Elastomers Under-the-Hood: A Robust Market is $3,350.