Tin is used to manufacture three different types of tin chemical: Organotins, Inorganic Sn (II) and Inorganic Sn (IV) chemicals. Tin chemical producers use tin metal or tin chemical intermediates made internally or purchased from another manufacturer. Organotins, used mainly in PVC stabilisers but also in polymer catalysts and glass coating, still dominate. Sn(II) and Sn(IV) products have a wide variety of uses including ceramics and pigments, catalysts, glass coating and electroplating. Tin content varies from around 17% for organotin products to 80-90% for some Sn(II) products.
Industry Threats and opportunities
Substance regulation, particularly in Europe, has pressured organotin use for some years. However in this latest survey, despite some mention of the issue and a concern by one respondent that catalyst producers are still looking for tin substitutes, it seems that most producers are recording and expecting continued growth, driven by strong markets for polymer products. In general this may reflect the fact that more exposed products such as dibutyltins are now being phased out and other types such as methyltins are maintaining their technical superiority in key market sectors. There is however no reason for complacency as commonly used products such as dioctyltin are coming under scrutiny in Europe under the REACH Directive, substance regulations are likely to be extended to China and elsewhere and cheaper alternatives continue to be developed.
Tin price is a continued threat, although responsible sourcing issues have not yet impacted significantly. Traditional markets such as electroplating, ceramics and pigments and textiles are likely to remain static or decline. There are however continued pressures on antimony, chromium and other metals that could represent opportunities for tin in fire retardants, brake pads, cement additives and similar products. Inorganic chemicals and catalysts may benefit from the new surge in energy materials and technologies in the medium-term, especially if tin is used in lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.