Magneto rheological fluid (MR fluid or MRF) can be defined as smart and controllable fluid. It is a non-colloidal mixture of ferromagnetic particles randomly dispersed in oil or water, along with surfactants used to avoid the settling of suspended particles. MR fluid, when subjected to magnetic field, quickly increases its apparent viscosity and becomes a viscoelastic solid. Similarly, MR fluid changes back to its original liquid state when the magnetic field is removed. These properties are highly useful in applications such as damping and braking and clutching systems.
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Increasing number of automotive applications is a major factor driving the global MR fluid market
MR fluid was first used in the automotive industry for damping and braking and clutching systems. Currently, several vehicle platforms such as the Cadillac and Corvette employ MR-based suspension systems. Nearly half of all automotive dampers are expected to use MR fluid in the next 15 to 20 years. Furthermore, applications of MR fluid are being developed for usage in a wide range of industries. For example, MR fluid can be used in damping systems in civil infrastructure projects and household appliances. It can also be used to absorb the impact of bullets in body armors in the military industry. MR fluid can be employed in damping and braking, and clutching systems in robotics and medical & prosthetics industries. It can also be used for the development of landing gears in the aerospace industry. Furthermore, MR fluid can be employed for superior polishing of optical surfaces. It can also be used for the development of haptic knobs in electrical & electronic products. Thus, development of a large range of applications is anticipated to drive the MR fluid market.
High price of MR fluid is likely to hamper the global MR fluid market
MR fluid is still in the nascent stage of research. The production volume of this fluid is much lower than that of the conventional oil, which it aims to replace. Hence, the price of MR fluid cannot yet benefit from the scale of its production. This is an important reason for the high price of MR fluid. However, the MR fluid market is expanding at a rapid pace. Thus, production of MR fluid is also estimated to increase, thereby bringing down the price as it starts benefitting from the scale of production.
Lack of consumer awareness regarding the benefits of MR fluid, including its high effectiveness and long life, is a major threat facing the global MR fluid market. Consumers who consider MR fluid as a costly product, without understanding its technological benefits, generally do not adopt it. However, consumer knowledge about the product is projected to improve during the forecast period. Companies manufacturing MR fluid are taking the lead in educating consumers about the various cost and other related benefits of the fluid.
Opportunities in robotics industry and in Asia Pacific
Robotics is a new field for the MR fluid market. MR fluid is being used to make robots more efficient and effective in their movements. This is done by using MR fluid-based damping and braking systems. Robots are increasingly being used in various industries, from warehousing and military to manufacturing and healthcare. Rise in usage of robots is likely to boost the consumption of MR fluid during the forecast period. Akin to robotics, the healthcare industry has started experimenting with the usage of MR fluid in prosthetic devices such as prosthetic knees and exoskeletons. Research in this field is relatively new and holds significant potential.
MR fluid is employed in an increasing number of products such as cars, robots, washing machines, and landing gears in various industries such as automotive, electrical appliances, and aerospace. Majority of these products are manufactured in Asia Pacific. The region is expected to maintain its leading position in terms of consumption of MR fluid in the near future considering the increase in usage of MR fluid in products and Asia Pacific being the manufacturing hub of the world. It is also anticipated to be the fastest growing consumer of MR fluid based on manufacturing capability.
High barrier of entry restricts entry of companies
Just 10 companies operate in the global MR fluid market due to the difficulty and complexity involved in the manufacture of the fluid. Development and manufacture of MR fluid entails significant research, high level of expertise, and high-precision machinery and equipment. It is also an expensive process. BASF SE, a major producer of chemicals in the world, failed to develop quality MR fluid. The company had to eventually withdraw its product from the market. This provides an indication of the high barriers that a new entrant in the market faces. Hence, an important strategy for companies is to provide quality MR fluid.
Companies have also adopted the strategy of targeting particular end-user industries for their products. For example, Lord Corporation, the market leader in the global MR fluid market, targets automotive, military & defense, medical & prosthetics, and robotics industries. Arus MR Tech targets automotive and military & defense industries, while CK Materials Lab targets automotive and building & construction industries.
MR fluid is still in the introductory phase in the market; hence, it is witnessing an exponential growth rate
The global MR fluid market has been expanding at a rapid pace since the last few years, led by the rise in number of new applications such as haptic knobs and engine mounting in various industries such as automotive, optics, and robotics. Significant investment in research by companies as well as universities and government research organizations has helped boost the commercial usage of MR fluid. Decline in the price of MR fluid has also helped expand its market.
The global MR fluid market is projected to expand at an exponential rate during the forecast period, driven by its increased uptake in end-user industries. The number of companies in the market is expected to rise at a sluggish pace. However, increase in competition is anticipated to improve product quality and reduce product price, resulting in higher demand for MR fluid in end-user industries such as military & defense, building & construction, aerospace, and electrical & electronics.