The global Anti-Reflective Coatings Market is projected to exceed USD 6 billion by 2024. Experts foresee market volumes to be over 500 kilo tons the same year. The same could be attributed to consumption of AR coatings in optical and electrical applications. There is a worldwide upsurge in people requiring vision correction. This favorably affects the industry.
Some of the benefits of these coatings in optical applications are increased transmission, better contrast, and ‘ghost image’ elimination. AR products are highly durable and can resist environmental & physical damage. They lessen reflections from both the front & back surfaces of eyewear. Due to this, more light is passes through lenses. The same optimizes ‘visual acuity’ without straining the eyes, which is of great benefit at night. Also, it offers high comfort in case of prolonged computer use.
Apart from facilitating sharper images, AR coatings enhance the aesthetic appearance. Their adoption makes eyeglass lenses almost invisible. They add to wearers’ attractiveness as others can see their eyes & expressions better. In case of sunglasses, AR products are applied to their back surface. When employed this way, they eliminate sunlight glare that reflects back into wearers’ eyes from the back, when the sun is behind the wearers.
Surfaces of majority of premium AR lenses are treated to enable faster & easier cleaning. Few lenses are given hydrophobic & oleophobic treatments which help repel water & oil respectively. The application of AR coatings to lenses is done through a technology, known as ‘vacuum deposition.’ These coatings are only 0.2 to 0.3 microns thick, about 0.02 percent of the total thickness of standard lenses.
AR products enhance the ‘picture quality’ of electronic devices; such as monitors, televisions, etc. Robust semiconductor & electronic industries coupled with higher consumer preference for flat panel displays should fuel industry demand till 2024.
An upcoming application of AR products is solar panels & similar devices. Growing emphasis on the usage of renewable energy is projected to open new market avenues. According to the IREA (International Renewable Energy Agency), the amount of electricity generated through solar panels is set to expand six-fold by 2030. Countries like India, China, and France are incentivizing ‘solar power’ installations.
When applied to solar panels, AR products help avoid light wastage by means of reflection. This improves light transmission. There is a trend of collaborations between glass manufacturers & solar companies to develop AR coated solar glasses. This brings down the costs of solar glass coatings. ‘Solar cell material’ ‘supplier’ Dyesol (Australia) and glass manufacturer ‘Pilkington’ (North America) have partnered to form DyeTec Solar. Similarly, AGC Glass (Europe) and Tenesol (France) have joined hands to produce customized laminated-glass modules.
In the automobiles industry, these products are incorporated for the manufacture of various components that encompass GPS displays, windshields, and dashboards. They are also used in telescopes to improve the contrast and eliminate stray light. The same proves highly useful in planetary astronomy where pollution from stray light seriously hampers the quality. While AR coatings on telescopic lenses are generally composed of magnesium fluoride, those applied on telescope mirrors are made of aluminum.
Despite their benefits & multiple applications, consumer awareness is low. This factor restricts the adoption of AR products. Rising prices of source materials, such as magnesium fluoride boost products costs and hamper the profitability of manufacturers. Moreover, the adoption of certain raw materials is restricted due to stringent eco-regulations. All these factors discourage the Anti-reflective coatings market.
The industry is segregated as per end-users and regions. End-users consist of telecommunications, eyewear, electronics, automotives, and solar. Eyewear produced the maximum revenues in 2015. Owing to their advantages, users are willing to pay extra sums for AR coatings.
Electronics bagged the second position in 2015. Product adoption across flat glass panels, smart phone displays, and semiconductors is said to ensure segment demand during 2016 to 2024. AR products are used for fabricating semiconductors during photolithography. This removes reflective scratches, improving lithography processes. Solar would grow at the fastest rate in the near future.
Regional segmentation is done on the basis of North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia Pacific, and the MEA (The Middle East & Africa). North America garnered the highest incomes in 2015. It benefits from surging demand for lenses, eyeglasses, and flat panel displays across the U.S. and Canada.
A large chunk of European revenues may come from solar panel applications. The robust automobiles industry of France, U.K., and Germany should create regional opportunities. Demand in the MEA and Latin America is likely to grow considerably. This will be ascribed to their expanding eyewear industry. Moreover, governmental focus on solar power across South Africa, Brazil, and the U.A.E. will prove favorable.
Asia Pacific would experience fastest growth in the forecast period. Being a manufacturing hub, it generates abundant demand. Governments in India, China, and Bangladesh have undertaken solar projects. The replacement of diesel water pumps with solar ones for electricity generation and irrigation is one example. Indonesia and Thailand are home to a lucrative automotives sector, employing AR products for the manufacture of automobile components.
Common technologies used to make AR products include ultraviolet and electronic beams. Epoxy, acrylic, and urethane are the chief resins used to make these coatings. The anti-reflective coatings market is characterized by large, medium, and small sized players. Some of the large and well-known suppliers comprise PPG Industries, Royal DSM, Honeywell International Inc., and Essilor International S.A. Other established companies are DuPont, Hoya Corporation, JSD Uniphase Corporation, and Janos Technology.
Above participants are highly focused on research & developments to introduce the latest, most advanced products. A coating obtained from moths’ eyes was developed by experts from Singapore University of Technology & Design in March 2015. It aims to better the efficiency of solar cells and create a sharper view of image sensors.
‘PPG Industries’ is working with solar industry leaders to make solar specific AR coated glass more efficient (as glass substrates need to be more transparent to solar energy. DuPont’s AR products dry fast. Additionally, their low-cost dip coating process delivers high productivity to manufacturers.
The worldwide industry is reeling under tough global economic conditions. Owing to this, small and medium sized firms are facing difficulties in sustaining themselves. Several of them may consolidate via mergers & acquisitions.
Research Support Specialist, USA