By David Reed, UT EditorLondon-Asia, which already consumes about half of the global output of thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs), is set to show the strongest growth in the next few years, but their use in coatings applications is set to reach 8-9 percent a year in Europe, according to a report from London-based IAL Consultants Ltd.Total TPU consumption in 2004 was 357 100 tonnes, IAL estimates, with Europe accounting for about 27 percent of the business and the Americas accounting for the rest, after the 50-percent used in Asian markets.Overall average growth in the production and consumption of TPUs is estimated at 3.8 percent per annum on a global basis, with the Asian market showing above average growth, and the markets of the Americas and Europe below average. In terms of applications, the production of TPU-based coatings emerges as the most favoured market with average growth of 5 percent worldwide but 8-9 percent in Europe. This is in contrast to a slight fall for extrusion-grade TPUs in Europe, where output is expected to decline slightly, even though a little consumption growth is expected, says IAL.Applications in engineering products and footwear-the latter chiefly in Asia-account for 57 percent of the market as shown in the chart alongside this report.Trends affecting global demand include:• Increasing demand in sports footwear, because of the good shock absorption properties of TPUs. Among other aspects of footwear design, the flexible material lends itself well to motifs and badges etc. for designer sports wear;• Medical applications offer good growth in the future despite there being considerable barriers to entry in the market, such as approval procedures and low volumes of application;• TPU films offer a breathable, water- and wind-proof finish for textile coating and this application will be led by the production of coated textiles in Asia• The European market is affected by slow growth, legislation and the shift of the footwear and engineering industries to Asia. However, many innovations from those in the sector are emerging through blending and composite technology;• In the Americas, TPU demand is tilting in favour of Brazil and Mexico as automotive production is transferred south from the USA and Canada;• Footwear applications in the Americas have been weakened by Nike transferring its production to Asia, and by the fact that the Mexican shoemaking industry is very price-driven, finding TPUs too expensive; and• China dominates the Asian TPU scene, especially with footwear applications in the south and east of the country. Alternative markets which are up-and-coming in Asia include TPU resins for plastic tubing and washing machine hoses.The Global Overview of the Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) Market, has 222 pages and 236 tables, is now available for purchase from IAL Consultants, price €3,000For more information on this title please contact: Mrs Cathy Galbraith,IAL Consultants (A Division of BRG (UK) Ltd),2nd Floor, CP House97 - 107 Uxbridge Road,Ealing London W5 5TLTel: +44 (0) 20 8832 7780Fax: +44 (0) 20 8566 4931Email: [email protected]: www.ialconsultants.com"