Special-Edition Viewpoints Address The Pandemic Crisis

In the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, pathways and opportunities in technology commercialization are undergoing dramatic transformation on many fronts. To address Explorer clients' urgent need to understand both the near- and longer-term impacts, we are providing a special set of analyses for May and June about the pandemic's impact on technology commercialization. Because the developments we describe affect multiple technologies, we have organized our standard Technology Areas into six consequential technology domains. (Read the full announcement about these special analyses.)

  • The May 2020 documents identify a wide range of key forces that will likely have a major influence on prospects for the six technology domains, imagining a plausible range of alternative outcomes that these forces could have during the coming five to ten years. These outcomes serve as building blocks for creating effective responses to the pandemic.
  • The June 2020 documents provide a scenarios-based analysis for each of the six technology domains, with emphasis on how the key uncertain forces might interact with and influence commercialization pathways in alternative postpandemic futures. Also available is a special presentation—The Pandemic Crisis: Scenarios for the Future of Technology Development—summarizing the scenarios and their implications for the six technology domains.

We encourage clients to engage with all six special-edition Viewpoints in both May and June to gain a broad view of potential changes and opportunities in technology commercialization. Please contact us if you do not already have access to all six technology domains, and we will be happy to provide you with the remaining articles in the collection.

Viewpoints

Archived Viewpoints

2002

About This Technology

Engineering polymers are thermoplastic resins that retain their mechanical properties at elevated temperatures (up to 150°C or higher for many glass-fiber-reinforced compounds). These polymers provide light weight, high impact strength, stiffness, toughness, and wear, fatigue, and chemical resistance in a variety of demanding applications. EPs also offer design flexibility, allowing the fabrication of flat, gently curved, and deeply contoured parts or intricate thin-wall components. Manufacturers and processors can tailor these materials to specific applications by combining the base resins with reinforcements and additives or by blending them with other polymers. As result, EPs have become an integral part of design engineers' tool kits, replacing steel, aluminum, glass, ceramics, and other conventional materials in a diverse range of applications: consumer products and appliances, electrical equipment and electronics, automotive components and transportation, industrial machinery, medical and dental devices, architecture, horticulture, rigid packaging, waste containers, flexible packaging, domestic products, clothing and apparel, and so on.

Today, most of the standard accessories of modern life incorporate EPs and find widespread use in cars and trucks applications such as headlight lenses, bumpers, cooling systems, under-the-hood components, steering wheels, door handles, seat systems, instrument panels, and air-intake manifolds. EPs are rapidly replacing metals in the production of automotive and aerospace components to reduce weight, simplify manufacturing and production times, and increase service lifetimes. Electrical and electronic devices also make extensive use of EPs in applications from connectors, sockets, and switches to housings for mobile phones, electronics, computers, printers, and media players. Consumer products, membrane-separation systems, and power tools are other important uses for EPs. Medical and dental implants make use of EPs to extend the life span of the devices, increase their biocompatibility, and develop custom-fit devices and implants. EP manufacturers and industries that make use of EPs seek out novel manufacturing processes such as additive manufacturing. Improved productivity and efficiency during manufacturing may stimulate growth in the EP market. Manufacturers of EPs and EP composites are also developing technologies to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. Government-policy support (especially in Europe and, more recently, in China) also drives the transition to biobased content in thermoplastics.

Demand for these versatile materials will continue to grow as a result of new application development, steady growth in existing end uses, and ongoing substitution for conventional materials. Tomorrow's vehicles, homes, and workplaces—like today's—will rely on EPs' lightweight strength, durability, and design flexibility. Additional opportunities to create EPs and EP composites that are even stronger, lighter, and more cost-effective—as well as recyclable, 3D printable, and able to withstand higher temperatures—are the key drivers to advance the EP market.