What Was The COVID-19’s Impact On Extruded Acrylic Market

“Whereas the outbreak of Covid-19 brought with it probably some very complex issues that will take years to resolve, it also brought with it few benefits. For example, the extruded acrylic sheet market wasn’t something that fascinated investors by promising any huge returns. However, it wasn’t until the Covid-19 pandemic that the overall dynamics of the extruded acrylic sheet industry shifted completely.”

While the number of Covid-19 cases and death toll due to it rose globally and at an immense rate, many other things severely declined.

Preface: Covid-19 a reality but unexpected

The all of a sudden outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic proved to be much harder than expected. Not only did it prove to be a health catastrophe, but its implications also went and still are far beyond what could have possibly been imagined by anyone.

While the number of Covid-19 cases and death toll due to it rose globally and at an immense rate, many other things severely declined.

The overall plummeting situation of major businesses resulted in a vast number of people losing their jobs, becoming homeless, and facing financial crises – are some very unfortunate examples.

But amid this probably unstoppable series of crises due to the Covis-19 pandemic, certain industries saw a rush of opportunities.

For example, in some industries, the demand and supply ratios of their products, something which rarely got affected by any ongoing trends or seasonal factors, started experiencing a sudden demand.

Similarly, few industries which were actually heading towards a decline and planned to curtail their operations in the upcoming months saw strong growth in demand for their products.

The demand for some products soared to such an extent that their manufacturers weren’t able to match up with it even though by utilizing optimum production levels.

One such product whose demand unexpectedly surpassed its possible supply during this turn of events is extruded acrylic glass sheeting.

In this article, we will discuss how the demand for the acrylic glass sheet got so high due to the impact of Covid-19 and the possible factors that might contribute to its increasing demand in the foreseeable future.

What is an acrylic glass sheet and extruded acrylic glass sheet?

Acrylic glass, plexiglass, or simply acrylic is the general everyday name used for the chemical compound Poly (methyl methacrylate).

In simple words, acrylic is basically a type of transparent plastic or thermoplastic material.

Acrylic glass is most popularly known for its considerable strength, light weightedness, pliability or flexibility, and transparency or clarity to see through it without any optical or material interference.

It is usually made into sheets just like glass, except that it can be bent and formed into any shape easily by applying the required amount of heat.

Its definition, including the word thermoplastic material, refers to its quality of being a material that becomes softer upon coming in contact with heat, thus it can be deformed, and which would again become hard when it cools.

What is an extruded acrylic glass sheet?

Normally, acrylic glass sheets come in two types depending on how they are manufactured. These two types are cast acrylic glass sheets and extruded acrylic glass sheets.

The cast acrylic glass sheet, as the word ‘cast’ suggests, is made by pumping or pouring the liquid methyl methacrylate monomer in a mold made up of two sheets of glass.

This brings out a uniform size acrylic sheet.

On the other hand, the extruded acrylic glass sheet is made through a continuous process where the heated polymer in liquid form is fed or extruded and passes through a series of rollers that helps it in forming a sheet while adding texture and thickness.

Features and qualities of acrylic and extruded acrylic sheets

Before moving forward towards discussing what impact does the Covid-19 had on the extruded acrylic market, it is important to highlight a few of the features and qualities of acrylic and extruded acrylic sheets, in particular, to better understand its application and rise in demand during the pandemic.

  • Extruded acrylic glass sheets are thermoformable. This means that they can easily be transformed or deformed into any shape by making it, even more, softer by means of heating. Upon cooling, the extruded acrylic sheet will again become hard while also retaining its new shape.

  • Making extruded acrylic sheets is a more machine-oriented process rather than being a labor-intensive process. Also, it is manufactured through a continuous process, therefore eliminating any recurring startup or preparation costs. This quality on the whole reduces the manufacturing cost of extruded acrylic sheets, which subsequently results in the low price of the finished product when compared with a cast acrylic sheet as well as a glass sheet.

  • Acrylic sheets have excellent optical clarity when compared to glass sheets.

  • Acrylic glass sheets are more durable which means they can resist more external impact than a glass sheet.

  • Acrylic glass sheets also provide more resistance towards UV (ultraviolet) rays.

The impact of Covid-19 on extruded acrylic market

The impact of the Covid-19 on the extruded acrylic market can be broadly discussed with the help of three distinct events or scenarios. These are –

  1. Events that led to the increase in the use of extruded acrylic glass sheet;

  2. The inability of the suppliers to fulfill the increasing demand; and

  3. An unprecedented increase in prices.

1. Events that led to the increase in the use of extruded acrylic glass sheet

As an initial precautionary measure for personal safety to prevent the spreading of the Covid-19, the public at large was instructed to wear face masks, maintain a social distance, avoid public gatherings, no unnecessary physical contact, regular hand washing, and use of antibacterial agents.

However, the climbing cases of Covid-19 led to the adoption of further necessary measures.

Among these new adaptations, a prominent one was not leaving home unnecessarily, so much so that the concept of work from home became a widely accepted trend.

While the concept of work from home received much acceptance, it wasn’t practically applicable to each industry.

For instance, take the example of education institutes, public service offices, and restaurants.

  • In the case of the education sector, the concept of online learning isn’t anything new. But what about the junior grades of school-going children? Would they be able to understand and continue with the same level of enthusiasm as they would generally have while studying in a class? Well, to some extent ‘Yes’, but to much extent ‘No’.

  • Similarly, public service offices, especially those that require people to be physically present to process any motion, cannot function in an online scenario.

  • The third example is of a restaurant business in particular but in general, it includes any business related to providing hospitality, amusement, and outdoor activity services. While the food delivery and takeaway is an exercisable option, many people still believe in going out to avail and fully enjoy these services.

Since the Covid-19 spreads through the droplets exhaled by an affected person and inhaled by a non-affected person, the use of acrylic sheets turned out to be an excellent strategy.

Also, another factor that contributed towards the preferred use of acrylic sheets to build transparent partitions was the convenience to remove them, in the case they weren’t needed at all in the future.

While the acrylic sheets can be fixed permanently, they do offer the option to be installed temporarily as well.

Businesses and many public service organizations continued smooth operations while avoiding the spread of Covid-19 when many countries adopted the policy to use acrylic sheets as see-through (transparent) dividers between individuals.

Using extruded acrylic sheets in these three and other similar cases contributed towards the hike in its demand, thus impacting the normal demand and supply of the acrylic glass.

2. The inability of the suppliers to fulfill the increasing demand

Products made from plastic and its derivative materials are a common sight and part of our everyday life.

And while the use of plastic-made products for both edible and non-edible, and household, industrial and commercial use is on the rise, this isn’t the case for acrylic sheets.

The use of acrylic sheets before the advent of Covid-19, was by some estimates on a declining side.

However, the Covid-19 outbreak changed the whole situation, causing a spike in its demand.

Of course, the acrylic sheet manufacturing unit isn’t easy to set up.

In addition to other factors, there are normally barriers to entry which are always considered by industrialists before making any decision to invest in such a new venture.

For example, no matter how reliable the acrylic sheet is, in comparison, it too has alternatives such as glass which is also less expensive.

In the Covid-19 scenario, a sharp increase in acrylic sheet demand meant having to rely on the existing supply potential of the global acrylic manufacturing facilities to produce more quantity without any stoppages.

The eventual impact resulted in making acrylic sheet business from being considered as an average to something very profitable.

3. An unprecedented increase in prices

Price fixing of most unregulated commodities and products is generally based on the economic principle of demand and supply currently prevailing in that market.

The same was the case for acrylic sheets.

Due to the ever-increasing demand for acrylic sheets, while having little to no increase on the production capability, its prices also spiraled in an upward direction.

This can be attributed to several reasons. For instance, these can be –

  • Lack of availability of raw material due to temporary air and sea travel restrictions across nations;

  • The willingness of buyers to pay a higher price to procure the currently available ready stock;

  • Lack of government or authoritative intervention to control and fix the price, such as by terming the acrylic sheet as an essential component in preventing the spread of Covid-19; and

  • Deliberate increase in prices of the product by sellers, seeing it as an opportunity to generate revenue as long as possible.

Will the increase in demand for acrylic sheets continue to rise in the foreseeable future?

Taking into account all the above facts and assumptions, it is highly possible for the increase in demand for acrylic sheets to continue rising in the foreseeable future.

This can be justified by putting forward two very basic points.

  1. Development of the Covid-19 vaccine; and
  2. Innovation won’t let the demand go down

1. Development of the Covid-19 vaccine

Earlier, in the beginning, some experts attributed the high rise in demand for acrylic sheets due to the non-availability of the Covid-19 vaccines.

But now that the Covid-19 vaccines have been successfully developed, its demand is still likely to remain stable if not rise.

This is because first, the different variants of the Covid-19 vaccine developed are still not one hundred percent effective in preventing the disease.

Second, even after getting a dose of the vaccine, health experts still recommend practicing precautionary methods, and using acrylic sheets is one of them.

Thus, any slip in its demand is quite unlikely to be seen.

2. Innovation won’t let the demand go down

While some industries by their very nature were quick to find the solution of using acrylic sheets to continue their operations smoothly, other businesses also are looking for ways to somehow benefit from its use.

For example, an Italian designer introduced the concept of open-air acrylic plexiglass boxes for beachgoers to help them enjoy lying on the sand while still maintaining social distance in a much better way.

Other businesses have also found similar innovative ways, all of which will likely increase its demand.

Conclusion

Whether the outbreak of the Covid-19 bringing opportunities for a few industries together with horrifying devastation for the remaining majority, such as in the case of extruded acrylic sheet market, should be seen as something fortunate or unfortunate, can be largely argued with both a rational and an emotional approach.

However, the fact that the demand for the extruded acrylic sheet will continue to grow in the future cannot be denied.