Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) is a type of thermoplastic polyethylene. It is also called high modulus polyethylene or high performance polyethylene. The polyolefin has a very long polymer chain of 100,000 to 250,000 ethylene monomer units per polyethylene molecule. As the name states, molecular weight of the polymer ranges between 3.5 million to 7.5 million amu. The longer chain strengthens the intermolecular attraction of the polymer. It is an odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, lightweight, and tough polymer possessing properties such as high strength, excellent resistance to corrosion and abrasion, self-lubrication, low moisture absorption, and low coefficient of friction. It is resistant to chemicals, except oxidizing acids. The polymer has low weight, as compared to metals. UHMWPE is utilized in defense applications, the automotive industry, wires and cables, ballistic protection and orthopedic industries. Medical-grade polymer is utilized as a biomaterial and is utilized in medical devices and different joint replacements.
The Medical-grade ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene market can be segmented based on manufacturing process, polymer form, application, and region. The polymer can be processed by different methods such as gel spinning, sintering, compression molding, and extrusion. The processed polymer is produced in the form of fibers or sheets or rods. In terms of medical application, the UHMWPE market can be segmented into knee replacement, hip replacement, shoulder replacement, ankle replacement, and small joints. Highly cross-linked UHMPW polyethylene is utilized in hip replacements. The polymer can also be manufactured by incorporating different materials such as carbon fibers and antioxidants (vitamin E) in it. In terms of region, the market is segmented into North America, Latin America, Middle East & Africa, Europe, and Asia Pacific.
Longer chains of ultra-high molecular-weight polyethylene enable it to efficiently transfer load, making it suitable for medical applications. Demand for medical grade UHMPE is expected to rise due to its impressive properties such as chemical resistance, sound dampening characteristics, and electric insulation. Increase in number of joint replacement surgeries, joint infections, implant loosening, and diseases such as osteoarthritis are anticipated to drive the UHMWPE market. Increase in number of knee and shoulder replacements is driving the demand for UHMWPE. Asia Pacific is estimated to hold a major share of the market in the near future. Demand for UHMWPE is rising in India, China, Japan, and South Korea due to rapid urbanization, increasing incomes, and government initiatives for better medical treatments. The market is likely to expand at a rapid pace due to the rise in the geriatric population particularly in Japan and Germany. Changing lifestyle, lack of fitness, and increase in consumption of junk food are the contributing factors for increase in number of arthritis patients. Existing medical infrastructure, high standard of living, and increasing quality medical treatment are the key factors contributing to expansion of the market in North America, especially in the U.S. Top manufacturing companies held major shares of the market, as very few producers operate in the market. Manufacturers are focusing on R&D activities to manufacture improved versions of the polymer in order to reduce wear issues and offer safer implants. Major players operating in the global medical grade ultra high molecular weight polyethylene market include Honeywell, Celanese Corporation, Quadrant, Braskem, and Asahi Kasei Chemicals Corporation.