Silver Flake and Powder Market to Grow Despite High Silver Prices


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Although the market for silver powder and flake products had been buffeted by rising silver prices, opportunities do exist for suppliers able to offer customized high quality powders and flakes, value-added nanosilvers, and lower-cost yet high-performance silver-coated hybrid materials. In a recently released report, NanoMarkets, estimates the value of the silver powder and flake market to be $8.7 billion in 2011 and expects it will increase to $16.35 billion by 2018.

The information for this paper was drawn from the NanoMarkets report, Silver Powders and Flakes – 2011

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Silver Flake and Powder Market to Grow Despite High Silver Prices

  1. 1. NanoMarkets Silver Flake and Powder Market to Grow Despite High Silver Prices A NanoMarkets White Paper Published September 2011 © NanoMarkets, LCNanoMarkets, LCPO Box 3840Glen Allen, VA 23058Tel: 804-360-2967Web:
  2. 2. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netEntire contents copyright NanoMarkets, LC. The information contained in this report is based on thebest information available to us, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. NanoMarkets,LC and its author(s) shall not stand liable for possible errors of fact or judgment. The information inthis report is for the exclusive use of representative purchasing companies and may be used only by Page | 2personnel at the purchasing site per sales agreement terms. Reproduction in whole or in any part isprohibited, except with the express written permission of NanoMarkets, LC. NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  3. 3. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netSilver Flake and Powder Market to Grow Despite High SilverPricesAlthough the market for silver powder and flake products had been buffeted by rising silver prices,opportunities do exist for suppliers able to offer customized high quality powders and flakes, value- Page | 3added nanosilvers, and lower-cost yet high-performance silver-coated hybrid materials. In a newlyreleased report, NanoMarkets, a leading provider of market research and analysis of the opportunitiesin advanced materials and emerging energy and electronics markets, estimates the value of the silverpowder and flake market to be $8.7 billion in 2011 and expects it will increase to $16.35 billion by2018. Summary: Value of Silver Materials by Application 2011-2018 ($ Millions) 18,000 16,000 Nanosilver in Antimicrobial Applications 14,000 Silver Brazing and Cold Silver Solder 12,000 Fillers 10,000 Flakes & Powders for Conductive 8,000 Adhesives 6,000 Nanosilver in Inks, Pastes, and Adhesives 4,000 Flakes & Powders for PV Inks 2,000 0 Flakes & Powders for Silver Inks and 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Pastes (Excluding PV) © NanoMarkets, LC YearNanoMarkets says that silver powders and flakes mainly find use in conductive pastes and adhesivesfor electronics applications, photovoltaics (PV), brazing and soldering for HVAC/R, industrial tooling,and automotive applications, and antibacterial/biocidal applications. While electronics andphotovoltaics account for the largest consumption of silver powders and flakes, the highest growthrates will be seen for hybrid silver-coated materials and silver nanopowders for antibacterial uses. NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  4. 4. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netImpact of High Silver PricesEven though silver consumption declined in 2009 as a result of the global recession, silver prices stillincreased climbed due to precious metal speculation, global currency debasement and a loss of faith insovereign currencies. Lingering concerns over the monetary health of the U.S. and Europeaneconomies continues to lead to persistent investment offtake of precious metals. Unfortunately for Page | 4industrial users of silver, this trend is expected to continue, with average prices predicted byNanoMarkets to rise by 6% annually from $35 per Troy ounce in 2011.The continued high and moderately growing silver prices will drive further efforts to minimize its usethrough more efficient per-unit use, better scrap recycling, etc. As a result, NanoMarkets expects themarket for hybrid silver-coated materials to nearly triple in size, and the market for nanosilver toincrease by about seven-fold.Silver powder and flake suppliers are also looking to at least partially mitigate rising silver costs andthus increase profit margins through product differentiation on a quality basis. NanoMarkets believesthat many firms will not only remain competitive but create growth opportunities by developingdownstream products that offer added value to their customers. In the brazing industry, this meansoffering not only powders and pastes, but also preforms and specialty brazing services. In thetraditional powders and flakes market, value-added constitutes offering specialty products that aredesigned with particular end uses in mind.Opportunities in ElectronicsSilver powders and flakes are converted to conductive pastes and adhesives for use in traditionalelectronics or new/novel printable electronics end-uses.Most traditional thick-film screen-printed silver applications are mature, such as membrane switches,keyboards, capacitors and the like, and employ large quantities of silver powders and flakes. In manyof these applications, like membrane switches, large features are involved, so replacement of standardinks and pastes seems improbable.There are, however, the beginnings of a very gradual shift toward use of other types of inks andprinting methods (high-speed flexo and gravure) as a way to reduce costs in some applications.Sophisticated geometries and finer flakes and powders will be required for inks used in high-speedprinting compared to screen-printing, presenting opportunities for silver powder and flake suppliers.The high conductivity of silver in ink form, which is important for maximizing performance, combinedwith the lower level of cost sensitivity of the sensor market, makes this end-use another attractivesector for silver flakes and powders. Silver may also prove to be a key enabling technology for OLEDlighting, and while this market currently is very small. NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  5. 5. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netFurthermore, increasing global demand for consumer electronics will lead to healthy growth rates inthe silver ink and paste market. Although the trend toward miniaturization of many consumerelectronic products is reducing the average per-unit amount of silver consumption in conductiveadhesives applications, there is substantial overall growth in volume demand driven by the continuedindustrialization and urbanization of the developing world. Page | 5Photovoltaics: Slowing but Still AttractiveThe photovoltaics (PV) sector has been rapidly growing for several years, both overall and in itsconsumption of silver. It is now about one-third the size of the traditional thick-film silver inks/pastesmarket, and high oil prices continue to drive interest in PV panels as “greener” energy alternatives.The global recession, however, has reduced the political will to convert from traditional energy sourcesto PV and it is unlikely that most of the subsidies for solar will survive major cuts in the U.S. federalbudget. Furthermore, long-term growth in the PV sector will be based on building-integrated PV(BIPV), which consumes less silver.Despite these apparent negatives, Nanomarkets believes that important opportunities remain forsilver in the PV space.Conventional crystalline silicon (c-Si) PV, the largest sector of the PV industry and the largest consumerof silver both in total and per watt or per unit of cell area, will experience continued growth and isunlikely to ever be fully replaced by newer alternatives such as inorganic thin-film PV (TFPV), dyesensitized cells (DSC) or organic PV (OPV). Growth of newer PV technologies like OPV, cadmiumtelluride (CdTe), and copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS) PV, as well as technologies that use lesssilver, will also occur. Furthermore, the PV industry tends to be risk-averse and thus resistant tochanging processes.Some Struggles for Brazing and SolderingIn the brazing and soldering alloys market, silver flakes and powders already face competition frompractical, less expensive alternatives, and because this market already uses alloys with varying silvercontent, it is a natural target for customers to find ways to decrease overall silver usage. On thepositive side, the overall size of the brazing and soldering market is expected to increase as the globaleconomy recovers from the recent downturn and as developing markets, particularly in China andIndia, continue to grow. The result: demand for silver powder in brazing and solder alloys shouldremain essentially flat.Silver brazes are most typically used for joining of hard metals, stainless steel, titanium, and certaincopper joints. They are prized for their high performance and ease of use. And while end-users areexpected to seeks ways to reduce cost by reducing silver content, NanoMarkets anticipates that evenwith high silver prices, this segment will experience some growth. There are few suitable non-silver NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  6. 6. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netoptions for hard metal brazes, ceramic-to-metal brazes and aerospace and aviation brazes, so thesesegments will also provide opportunities to silver powder and flake manufacturers.Nanosilver: Small Packages with Real PotentialNanosilver has been suggested for use as a conductive material in sophisticated inks and adhesives, Page | 6and its inherent antimicrobial nature has led to its use in nanosilver-impregnated consumer goods andmedical applications. NanoMarkets expects that both of these segments will be growth areas.In conductive applications, nanosilver finds use mostly in new or emerging applications that can moreeasily support its high cost, such as ink-jet inks for new printed electronics or nano-adhesives.Furthermore, as the high cost of production of nanosilver comes down in response to growing volumedemand, its high efficiency may make it attractive in a wider array of ink/paste and adhesiveapplications if average silver prices remain over $30 per Troy ounce as NanoMarkets anticipates.Suppliers will need to demonstrate real savings for customers, though, as other less expensivealternatives like carbon, copper, and even silver-coated metal hybrids, may also be effective.There is also opportunity for nanosilver in screen printing inks as the importance of alternative printingmethods (ink jet, gravure, flexographic, etc.) that require printed silver with uniform and finegeometries increases. Miniaturization in the printed circuit board (PCB) market has also created a needfor printing of ever-finer features using approaches ideally suited for nanosilver.As an antimicrobial preparation for medical and consumer goods, nanosilver is expected to providelonger durability and increased sustainability of antimicrobial activity while using less silver than silversalts. And since nanosilvers can be embedded into products in ways that silver salts cannot, a muchwider range of applications are now possible.The biggest potential markets for nanosilver in consumer foods are in food packaging and foodpreparation items, textiles like socks and athletic wear, and miscellaneous plastic consumer goods. Inall cases, bulk impregnation provides a uniform concentration of nanosilver, allows for lower loadingsand does not affect the characteristics of the host materials. Similarly, likely medical applications willinclude impregnation of infection-prone or biofilm-prone components like catheters, tubing, bandagematerials, prosthetics, etc.There is concern, however, about the long-term health effects of increased or widespread consumeruse of silver are still under debate both in the medical and regulatory communities, particularly in theUS and Europe. The regulatory environment is beginning to clarify, though, and NanoMarkets expectsthat most regulations will be finalized within the next year two. In addition, Asian manufacturers aremoving forward with the introduction of numerous nanosilver-based antimicrobial products. Thusstrong growth is expected for nanosilver in consumer goods and medical devices, with the growth ratehighest in Asia. NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259
  7. 7. NanoMarkets www.nanomarkets.netHybrids Provide HopeSuppliers may also find a competitive advantage in a world of high silver prices by augmenting theirsilver lines with less expensive, yet still sufficiently high performance, hybrid materials. Two keyexamples of this strategy include silver-coated copper powders and flakes for conductive adhesivesand conductive ink applications, and new and improved brazing alloys with reduced precious metal Page | 7content. Hybrid materials for conductive applications do not perform as well as pure silver, but risingsilver prices are driving interest in these alternatives where there performance is adequate. In thebrazing industry, suppliers are working closing with clients to find customized solutions for brazingapplications where alloy characteristics are more important than conductivity.Leading Players in the Silver Flake and Powder MarketLeading traditional silver powder and flake producers include Ferro, Ames Goldsmith, Metalor, andJohnson Matthey. Prince/Izant is a market leader among specialized companies producing powdersfor brazing. Inframat, ANP, and many other small firms are actively commercializing nanosilverproducts.ConclusionOverall, NanoMarkets believes that end-users will continue to rely on tried and tested silver unlessthey can be persuaded to move to more sophisticated materials without sacrificing performance oruntil economic considerations warrant a switch to such alternative materials in order to maintainprofitability. While hybrid silver materials and nanosilver will grow dramatically in the next eightyears, this growth will be from a very small base. And even though end-users will look to find ways toreduce silver consumption per unit of products as a result of high silver prices, demand for traditionalsilver flakes and powders will depend largely on the global economic situation and growth in emergingmarkets continues.For additional details about the NanoMarkets report, Silver Powders and Flakes – 2011 please visit theNanoMarkets website at or contact us via email at orby phone at 804-270-4370. NanoMarkets, LC | PO Box 3840 | Glen Allen, VA 23058 | TEL: 804-360-2967 | FAX: 804-360-7259