Auto Industry Applications Drive P-S Tape Markets

Only 17% of the overall market for pressure-sensitive tapes in Europe is claimed by specialty industrial tapes, but these applications represent the “jewel in the crown” in terms of margin and growth — and the OEM automotive industry takes the major share.

As in North America, the auto industry in Europe is relatively stagnant: It is growing at just 2%/annum. However, the use of industrial p-s tapes in this market is growing at a healthy 4%-5%/annum. Such applications represent an interesting focus for the specialist converter today, because it is fair to say nearly all auto industry usage is characterized by added-value features — provided either via the tape or foam laminate's construction (particularly the adhesive's properties) or, at a later stage, by a specialist conversion process.

Overall, engineers are finding more and more ways in which p-s products can simplify assembly in a broad range of badging, gasketing, anti-vibration and noise reflection (NVH), and interior trim fastening applications.

While European auto production has slowed overall due to the adverse economic climate, the outlook is optimistic, with today's opportunity areas identified as auto sales to Eastern European countries, Turkey, and Russia, as well as a developing export market in Asia.

On the downside, the strength of the euro has led to increased competition for Western European tape producers from low-cost imports from Asia, North America, and Latin America. And, as in every part of the converting industry, the power of the buyer — today often representing a multinational, even global, concern — is making it difficult for tape laminators and converters alike to pass on raw material increases, putting added pressure on margins.

But overall, the opportunities outweigh the threats, and the laminating and converting industries' ingenuity in developing new products will enable p-s tapes to continue to replace mechanical fastening devices in auto applications.

AWA Alexander Watson Assoc. is an international market research consultant company for the converting and packaging industries.

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