Silicones belong to the family of high-performance specialty materials. Silicones are polymers with large molecules consisting of several repeated sub-units. These polymers consist of siloxane, which is essentially a chain of alternating oxygen and silicon atoms combined with hydrogen and/or carbon. Several steps are involved in the production of silicones. First step involves the reaction between silicon and methyl chloride. The product of this reaction is then treated with water to remove chlorine atoms. During the production process, silanes are produced first. These act as intermediaries in the production of siloxanes and finally silicones. Silicones possess a wide range of physical and chemical properties. They are resistant to ultraviolet radiation, cold, heat, moisture, and several chemicals.
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Increase in production of electric and electronic products in Asia Pacific is a major driver of the silicones market. The region is a manufacturing hub of products. A wide range of products, from consumer goods to industrial equipment, is manufactured across countries in the region. Large number of electrical and electronics products are manufactured in Asia Pacific. Several countries in Southeast Asia are leading manufacturers and exporters of electric and electronic products. For instance, electronic products account for more than 50% share of the Philippines’ exports. China holds 31% share of the global Information and Communication Technology (ICT) goods export. Electric machinery and equipment are among the top exported products of Thailand. Indonesia is a major consumer of electric and electronic products in ASEAN. Malaysia has focused its manufacturing efforts on semiconductor ecosystems.
Fluctuating prices of raw materials is a major restraint of the silicones market. These prices are dependent upon several factors such as currency exchange rates, environment protection measures, and energy costs. Silicone manufacturing companies bear some portion of increased raw material prices, while the rest is passed on to customers. In most cases, a rise in prices of raw materials is temporary; manufacturers reduce prices of silicones once they return to the usual level. However, fluctuation in supply raw materials and increase prices of raw materials refrain manufacturers from planning for long term. For instance, China is an important provider and manufacturer of raw materials in the silicones market. However, in several cases, market players based in the country are unable to meet environment protection regulations. They frequently cease the production of silicones during government investigation and restart it once these are over. This has a direct but temporary effect on the prices of raw materials.
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Silicones is a highly organized market where the top players account for around 50% of market share. Key players operating in the silicones market include Wacker Chemie AG, DowDuPont, Momentive Performance Materials Inc., Evonik Industries, and Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. Ltd.