Resin Prices Rise as Chip Packaging Demand Soars

John Ward Author

With Asian firms pinning their hopes on advanced packaging technology to bypass U.S. semiconductor export restrictions, North American resin suppliers are experiencing booming export demand while customers face rising pricing.

North American prices for polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) used to produce plastic resins have risen recently. According to one market watcher, August PE contracts increased by $0.03/lb, with another $0.05/lb hike expected for September.

Rising Demand Leads to Increased Prices

Rising costs for crude oil used to produce plastic resins are contributing to the increase, with West Texas Intermediate crude oil pricing reaching a 2023 high of $93.68 per barrel in late September, up 40% from this year’s low in mid-March.

However, the price hike is also driven by rising demand, with PP sales reaching a nearly three-year high in August. North American PP exports also attained the highest level since mid-2020. North American resin suppliers currently are enjoying a price advantage compared to overseas competitors.

Asian firms that offer chip packaging services, including foundries, integrated device manufacturers, and outsourced semiconductor assembly and test (OSAT) firms, are increasingly embracing more sophisticated packaging solutions in response to U.S. export restrictions.

China Turns to ‘Chiplets’ to Overcome Export Restrictions

U.S. controls prohibit exports of sophisticated manufacturing equipment to China that can support more advanced process nodes. To overcome this hurdle, China’s semiconductor supply chain is turning to cutting-edge solutions that allow the integration of multiple small semiconductor dice, known as “chiplets,” into a single package.

This multichip packaging technique enables the production of sophisticated semiconductor devices that can scale to high transistor counts while still using older semiconductor manufacturing equipment.

The focus on packaging plays to China’s strength, with the country leading the global OSAT market with a 38% market share. OSATs and semiconductor makers in other Asian nations, including Taiwan and Malaysia, are also improving their advanced packaging capabilities to serve the rising demand for multichip solutions.

Demand in China and Asia for advanced packaging will only increase, contributing to price increases for resin. Resin buyers should adopt a price-protection strategy and seek to lock in supplies from North American sources while their pricing is still below the global average.

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