PVC is one of the most commonly used plastics in the world. Global polyvinyl chloride use is above 35 million tonnes per year, and the demand is constantly growing. At a global level, PVC use grows by an average of 5% per year, with higher growth rates within countries in the developing world.

Because of its versatility, PVC fabric is an ideal solution for many different applications.

In the European Union, about 8 million tonnes of PVC products are manufactured every single year. Annual European consumption of PVC resin totals 6.5 million tonnes – 15% of all plastics used in Europe.

PVC is sometimes known as ‘Vinyl’ in Europe and more commonly so in the US. In Europe, ‘Vinyl’ usually refers to certain specific flexible applications, such as flooring, decorative sheets and artificial leather, among other applications.

Automotive: Vinyl products are produced to customer specifications and can be modified to meet tier 1 processing requirements. PVC products can then be used throughout the car interior for instrument panels, door casings, seating, gear lever gaiters, headliners, load space covers and other components. From a design perspective, vinyl can be produced to imitate leather, fabrics and even carbon fibre making it the ideal solution for multiple interior trim applications.

Mass Transportation (Bus, Rail): Given the high usage environment of the mass transportation industry , robust surface performance is key and vinyl can offer an unprecedented level of grain, colour and style. Vinyl products offer a real alternative to more traditional leather or wool based surfaces, whilst offering class-leading seat wear and stain resistance. Offering a hygenic, design led finish expected from public transport. For the best possible product offering, vinyl products can be matched by some manufacturers to complicated moquette patterns.

Marine and Off-Highway: Vinyl is the perfect choice for marine applications as it is easy to maintain, waterproof and inhibits bacterial growth with the addition of biocides. Vinyl is the optimum solution for the upholstery of powerboats to yachts to cruise ships. Vinyl products are suitable for exterior and interior seating & upholstery as well as trim and cabin headliners.

Healthcare: Vinyl products have been the obvious choice for healthcare upholstery for many years due to it’s durability, cleanability and it’s resistance to the growth of mould and mildew. If a robust care routine is adhered to, there is no reason why vinyl upholstery cannot last for many years.

Hospitality: PVC fabrics in a number of different designs and effects are ideal for the Leisure and Hospitality sector. Great designs can be combined with durable and hygienic PVC fabrics.

Residential Care: PVC fabric has for many years been the premium choice for creating practical and attractive residential décor, engineered to be stain and abrasion resistant, fire retardant and antimicrobial there is no better fabric for this application.

Leisure: The durability and anti-bacterial qualities of PVC fabric make it the ideal choice for gym equipment and health club environments particularly as it is stain resistant and easy to clean.

Polyvinyl chloride is a thermoplastic product made of 57% chlorine (developed from industrial grade salt) and 38% carbon (predominantly from oil/gas via ethylene). PVC can be recycled by breaking it down into small chips, impurities removed and the product refined to make pure PVC. It can be recycled roughly seven times and has a lifespan of around 140 years.

PVC is made softer and more flexible by the addition of plasticisers which also dramatically improves its performance characteristics.

As PVC is heated to soften during the coating or moulding process, like any plastic PVC is formulated to resist damage my heat which allows users to thermoform PVC parts.

What is PVC Like Compared to Other Materials?

It’s Lightweight but Strong

PVC’s abrasion resistance, light weight, good mechanical strength and toughness are key technical advantages for its use in many applications.

Let’s take a look at some of the stats:

Type Product
Tensile Strength 2.60 N/mm²
Notched Impact Strength 2.0 – 45 Kj/m²
Thermal Coefficient of expansion 80 x 10-6
Max Cont Use Temp 60 oC
Density 1.38 g/cm3

Source: http://www.bpf.co.uk

It’s Easy to install

PVC fabric can be cut, shaped, sewn or welded and joined easily in a variety of styles.

It’s Durable and Long-Lived

PVC is heavily resistant to weathering, chemical degradation, general corrosion, shock and abrasion. It is therefore very useful as a material for quite a few long-life and outdoor products. In fact, medium and long-term applications account for 85% of PVC use in the building and construction sector.

It’s Cost-Effective

PVC has been a popular material for decades due to its physical and technical properties, which provide excellent cost-performance advantages. As a material it is very competitive when it comes to price – this value also boosted by its long lifespan and low maintenance costs after installation.

It’s Safe and Versatile

PVC is none toxic. Like all chemicals used within Europe, PVC falls under the REACH legislation which is designed to provide a high level of protection of human health and the environment from the use of chemicals.
The use of PVC fabric within Europe is monitored and controlled by trade and industry bodies who ensure that compounds can’t be added to PVC that breach the REACH legislation.
Typical resistance properties for PVC & PVC fabric are listed below:

Type Product
Dilute Acid Very Good
Dilute Alkalis Very Good
Oils and Greases Good (variable)
Aliphatic Hydrocarbons Very Good
Aromatic Hydrocarbons Poor
Halogenated Hydrocarbons Moderate (variable)
Alcohols Good (variable)

Source: http://www.bpf.co.uk

In addition, products made of PVC are generally resistant to weather, oils and Ultra Violet exposure. Finished products are flexible or resistant to mechanical shock and can be pigmented in any colour. The versatility of PVC allows it to be used for a wide range of applications with high standards for product quality.

Is PVC Sustainable for my Project?

PVC is used in various fields ranging from health care (blood bags), essential services (water supply, sewage, supply of electric power, etc.), housing, transportation, consumer products, and electronics. The applications are generally categorised on the basis of the hardness of products, e.g. rigid or flexible.

PVC products feature most prominently in those requiring long service lives, such as mass transportation, automotive, medical devices and products.

Leading the way in Sustainable Development

PVC’s contribution is not just limited to the products that is made from. The industry is also setting a unique example in the process of working together as a supply chain to drive forward ethical sustainable development.

The recycling of post-consumer PVC waste in the EU achieved 260,842 tonnes in 2010 – an increase of 220,000 tonnes as compared to the 1999 recycling numbers – exceeding a 10-year target of 200,000 tonnes established by Vinyl2010, a Voluntary Commitment of the PVC industry to reduce the environmental impact of PVC production – signed in the year 2000.

PVC fabric manufacturers across the entire EU also achieved 94% compliance with the industry production charters for VCM, suspension PVC and emulsion PVC. These impressive results have been built upon even further by the introduction of a new voluntary programmes that sets out a new list of targets for PVC manufacturers to achieve; these include advancements in:

  • Sustainable energy
  • Continued control of emissions
  • Sustainability awareness
  • Further controlled loop management of PVC production.