Demand for coated fabrics in the U.S. is forecast to increase 2.1 percent per year to 650 million square yards in 2020. Coated fabric usage is highly dependent on two factors: the production of end products and the level of competition from alternative materials, such as leather, plastic and rubber sheeting, and uncoated fabrics. These and other trends are presented in Coated Fabrics, a new study from The Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry research firm.
Coated fabric demand is supported by the significant size of the U.S. transportation industry, which produces a large number of components from coated fabrics, including airbags, seating upholstery, covers and trim. According to analyst Pamela Safarek, “The motor vehicle market alone is expected to account for 24 percent of total additional coated fabric demand through 2020.” Gains will be supported by increases in vehicle production levels. In addition, more coated fabrics are expected to be used on a per vehicle basis, particularly as more airbags are installed in each vehicle. However, a significant share of these airbag units are made outside the U.S., hampering domestic coated fabric demand somewhat.
The industrial market is projected to generate the fastest sales growth through 2020, accounting for 30 percent of new demand over that period. Coated fabric sales will be driven by an expected increase in the manufacture of industrial products, including key coated fabric applications such as PTFE tape and conveyor belting. In many such applications, coated fabrics are the only viable materials.
Polymer-coated fabrics dominate the US market, with demand driven by the diverse set of performance characteristics these products provide. Vinyl-coated fabrics, which feature adequate durability at a relatively low cost, are the most used polymer-coated fabrics, making them viable for a wide range of applications, including motor vehicle seating, protective clothing and tensile membrane structures. Rubber-coated fabrics are forecast to grow faster than other product categories through 2020, albeit from a much smaller base.