The strong global growth of the release liner industry is good news for everyone involved in it, from the chemical suppliers to the release liner manufacturers. It will have come as a welcome relief to many as 2018 has not been an easy year. It was particularly challenging for those that rely on either paper or silicone. The release liner industry, relying heavily on both stood to be particularly challenged by both the paper and the silicone shortages. However, the fear that paper and silicone shortages could harm the release liner industry seems unnecessary now. The shortages in the market have left both paper and silicone suppliers struggling to meet the demand and has seen market prices soar. In fact, in the Silicone market, due to rising prices and a precarious supply many spent 2018 considering alternative materials. Yet it appears that the demand and supply for release liners has survived this challenge.
Certain players are doing particularly well out of this. APAC (Asia-Pacific) has experienced the most growth and has the largest share of the market. With a strong record in leading the world in silicone production, China has the greatest share of the release liner market. Other areas, such as the United States, followed by Europe are showing signs of strong market growth.
The release liner industry is moving to thinner materials (and coatings) as well as higher throughput for production which is probably driven to reduce costs.
Whether it’s for drinks bottles or the sky-rocketing use in the medical field, labels account for the largest share of the release liner market by a significant lead. The needs of the medical field and high demand is driving the market to produce thinner, more easily disposed of labels. This means that instead of paper being the only substrate on the market, synthetic, film-based materials are starting to be used. Instead of relying on typical paper production methods, these release liners are produced from polypropylene, polyester and polyethylene and can be much thinner than more conventional options. Why are these materials gaining popularity? Because these film-based synthetic materials can be up to 60% thinner and this has major environmental and commercial implications. In addition to producing a much smaller volume of waste and being more much efficient to produce, they’re also lighter and more efficient to store and transport, meaning that significant financial savings can be made in all stages of their use.
However, the market cannot continually drive release liners to be thinner. If they get too thin, then they will simply not work. Paper-based release liners have certainly proved their worth over the years and are not going to be replaced overnight. They remain critically important and indispensable in certain key areas, such as pressure sensitive label areas.
Earlier this year we attended the 2018 AWA seminar in Bangkok which has taught us several things. Firstly, that APAC is a critically important economic zone in incredibly strong industries. It has also taught us that release liners are changing to meet a multitude of needs, and whilst the traditional paper and silicone release liner is not going anywhere, and as environmental concerns become more and more significant, particularly in China, the synthetic plastic release liner is an emerging force and may play a much more significant role in the future.
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