Developments and growth prospects in the global ceramics industry

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The global ceramics industry is undergoing rapid growth as materials continue to find widespread usage in flourishing sectors, including construction, aerospace, electronics, automotive, and medical.

Around the world, the ceramics industry has graduated from charming associations of handmade cups and pots to a foundation industry of global importance and significant production value. By 2022, it is forecast to reach a global worth of $287 billion.

Modern ceramics have widespread usage as clay-building products for construction and high-temperature refractories for vital industries including glass, petrochemicals, and steel. In the medical sector, ceramics are used for a range of applications including artificial body parts. They also have broad application in body armor for sports and conflict usage.

Innovation has underscored this evolution. But changes in the industry and in associated legislation are threatening its growth.

In the United Kingdom, the uncertainty of Brexit is holding a question mark over growth prospects. If successful, the country’s withdrawal from the European Union could see the ‘Made in England’ stamp back in high profile, representing high-quality goods around the world. But there is currently uncertainty over the future of the UK’s import and export markets as its government clamours to secure trade deals outside of the EU. At present, half of the UK’s ceramics exports are sold in Europe. In July 2018, the European Commission announced a review of current anti-dumping measures – a protectionist tariff on cheap foreign imports – which means the measures will stay in play until May 2019. Laura Cohen, chief executive of the British Ceramic Confederation (BCC), said, “Since the EU introduced anti-dumping duties on unfairly cheap imports from China, our UK ceramic industry has been able to stabilise and grow. The news that the duties will stay in place for the time being is good for the sector and shows the EU is taking dumping seriously. The BCC is calling for the UK government to continue to ensure UK ceramic manufacturers have a level playing field after Brexit.”

Across the Atlantic in the United States, manufacturing – which includes glass and ceramics – creates more economic value than any other industry and is essential for attracting foreign investment. The long-term viability of the manufacturing industry relies on investment, talent, and innovation, as well as robust manufacturing policy. Policy is needed which accelerates business, provides financing programs, closes the skills gap, offers tax breaks, incentivizes training programs, and familiarizes workers with new technologies – as well as providing access to advanced technologies for smaller firms in the first place. It must also work favourably for small- and medium-sized enterprises, which form the backbone of the larger manufacturing supply chain. For ceramics manufacturers, there needs to be a strategy from both local and national perspectives.

 

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Growth areas

There are worldwide trends in ceramics growth. By 2023, the global ceramic tiles market is forecast to reach $155.31 billion, growing at a CAGR of 9.3% since 2017. This is thanks to increasing demand from the construction industry, which is experiencing rapid growth due to population expansion, rising disposable incomes, and government initiatives encouraging infrastructure development, among other factors.

The residential replacement sector has emerged as the leading application segment, accounting for the highest global market share in terms of revenue. Asia-Pacific accounted for the largest market share in 2017, while Latin America is set to witness significant growth from 2017-23 as heightened construction activity continues. Likewise, the Middle East and Africa have seen rising investment in construction, which is driving growth in the ceramic tiles markets there.

The residential replacement sector is expected to continue along this growth trajectory as demand escalates for ceramic tiles to replace glass, granite, marble, paints, and stone. Attractive properties include frost and thermal shock resistance and high durability.

Rising costs of raw materials and fluctuating energy prices could hamper growth, but more likely is increased investment in R&D as manufacturers fall in line with stringent environmental regulations. This will lead market players to innovate as they explore and develop eco-friendly products.

Other growth areas include the ceramic fiber market, which is expected to reach $2.59 billion by 2022. Growth here is being driven by heightened demand for ceramic fiber products that are lightweight and which exhibit enhanced functionality compared with substitute products such as glass, metal, or wood.

The automotive ceramics market is also expanding thanks to demand for ceramics for engine parts, exhaust systems, and electronics applications. By 2022, this market is expected to reach $2.05 billion, with the zirconia oxide ceramics market growing at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. This is thanks to its broad application as a result of attractive properties including high chemical resistance, high density, high fracture toughness, and high flexural strength.

In the same period, the global medical ceramics market will grow at a CAGR of 6.2%, reaching a value of $5,841 million by 2022. Here, ceramics are used in the manufacture of medical implants, disposables, packaging, and devices. Demand for medical implants is increasing in line with rising incidences of chronic diseases.

Advanced ceramics, too, are set to undergo significant growth as demand increases from various end-user industries. These include automotive, defense, and heavy machinery.

 

The sustainability factor

As well as finding use in traditional end-user industries, ceramics are increasingly taking center stage in discussions on sustainability. Recent years have seen a shift away from single-use plastics, which pollute bottled water and oceans and harm marine life – but that has not stopped demand for these or similar products. Rather than attempting to curb consumer demand, industries are instead looking for alternatives, and ceramics could be the solution.

Glass containers are made from all-natural ingredients, rendering them chemically inert and impermeable. Unlike plastics, which lose properties through the recycling process, glass containers are totally and limitlessly recyclable. Another benefit is that the properties of glass bottles are locked in, whereas recent studies have found that 90% of samples from the world’s leading plastic-bottled water brands contained microplastics such as polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate, which are then consumed by people.  

A global shift towards glass bottles over plastic would mean huge growth for the ceramics industry, and offer significant potential environmental benefits. But this can only happen if governments around the world foster a favourable environment in which the ceramics industry can innovate.

These changes and more will be addressed at Ceramics Expo USA – North America’s biggest showcase of ceramics materials, products, and processes. The expo unites manufacturers and engineers from across the supply chain to talk, learn, and grow their businesses. A conference runs alongside the expo, where scores of industry heavyweights share their technical expertise, real-world case studies, and insights on industry trends.


Join us in Cleveland, Ohio on April 30 – May 1, 2019 to network with industry peers and stay at the vanguard of industry developments.