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A global look at the metalcasting industry.

In the 1990s, use of ductile iron and aluminum castings should grow rapidly, with only slight increases for gray iron and steel.

Worldwide production of metal castings is forecasted to row from 76 million metric tons in 1990 to 85 million metric tons in 1998 at a yearly rate of 1.4%. Growth after the 1991 recession is expected to peak in 1994, followed by a recession in 1996 and a second peak in 1998.

Figure 1 shows the increases predicted for world production of gray iron, ductile iron and aluminum die castings. Gray iron production worldwide is expected to increase from 46.8 million metric tons in 1990 to 51 million in 1998 at an annual rate of 1%. This growth rate is significantly low, considering the low base value for 1990-91. Ductile iron production, however, is anticipated to grow 4.9% yearly from 17.5 million metric tons globally in 1998.

Worldwide aluminum diecasting production is expected to increase to 5.1 million metric tons annually at a rate of 6% peryear, Sandcast and gravity feed aluminum castings also are forecasted to have a growth rate near 6%.

U.S. Casting Production

Gray Iron-In the U.S., gray iron production is predicted to fall at a rate of 0.4% per year as declining markets exceed growth markets (Table 1). Ingot molds will continue to drop to below 300,000 metric tons annually as continuous casting of steel increases to 90% of U.S. steel production. Rolling mill castings, also dependent on steelmaking processes, are forecasted to decline 4% per year.

The use of gray iron castings in cars and light trucks is forecasted to decline 2.4% per year until the year 2000. The weight of gray iron castings pervehicle, which at one time exceeded 650 lb, is expected to decline to 250 lb. In passenger cars, the average weight per car is predicted to decline to near 140 lb.

For gray iron producers, the major loss in automobile castings is in engine blocks and cylinder heads. Aluminum blocks are forecasted to be used in 10% of U.S. cars and light trucks by 1994, rising to 30% by 1998. In Europe, the percentage is expected to reach 28% in 1994 and 36% in 1998.

Aluminum in cylinder heads are replacing iron at a rapid rate. Some 29% of U.S. cars and light trucks are expected to use aluminum heads by 1992, and 88% are expected to use them by 1998. in Europe, the percentage is expected to reach 91% by 1998.

The use of gray iron castings in household appliances is expected to decline 2.2% peryear because of increasing substitution by plastics. Demand for gray iron also is predicted to decrease in soil pipe, farm equipment and electric motors. Gray iron use in specific markets such as valves, pumps, diesel engines, construction, mining, compressors-and machine tools is expected to rise, showing peaks in 1994 and 1998.

Ductile Iron-Global ductile iron production continues to grow at a higher rate than its specific markets because of ductile iron replacement of gray iron, steel and malleable iron in many applications.

In the U.S., a 3% per year increase in ductile iron production is expected from 1990-2000, with annual rates as high as 5% in some markets (Table 2). Ductile iron will continue to replace steel castings in rear axles and other castings in construction, farm equipment and wheel hubs on trucks. New applications in printing machinery, machine tools, valves and diesel engines will increase demand for ductile iron in these industries.

Aluminum-U.S. aluminum casting production is predicted to rise at an annual rate of 3.9%. The greatest growth will be in motor vehicles (5.1 % per-year) because aluminum die, sand and permanent mold castings are replacing ductile iron (Table 3). Aluminum also has replaced gray iron in parts such as transmission castings, intake manifolds and water pump housings. The average weight of aluminum for cars and light trucks is expected to rise to 170 lb.

Demand for aluminum diesel engine castings, such as flywheel and gear housings, is expected to increase 4.1% per year. Other market segments, such as refrigerator compressors, power tools, computer and aircraft, are expected to grow more than 3% annually.

Steel-U.S. steel casting production is expected to rise only 0.2% annually from its present low (Table 4). Declines are forecasted in truck castings because of the loss of the wheel and hub to ductile iron, in rolling mill castings because of the growth in continuous casting of steel, and in off-the-road construction equipment because of the loss of the rear axle housing and other castings to ductile iron.

Growth is predicted in markets for turbine castings and valve and pump castings. The largest forecasted growth in steel castings is in corrosion-resistant stainless steel.

OtherMetals-Brass and bronze casting production is forecasted to drop 0.2% peryear because of substitution by plastic in fittings and valves. Automotive usage of zinc die castings also is expected to decline by 0.8% annually.

Use of magnesium die castings is forecasted to grow 5.8% per year because of added usage in motor vehicles. Demand for highnickel base alloys in applications such as valves, pumps and desalination units is expected to rise at a rate of 3.1% per year. The market for investment castings is forecasted to grow 3.9% annually, with the greatest growth in valves and pumps.

World Casting Production

A clear measure of the technology of a country is the ratio of its ductile iron to its gray iron production. The current world production ratio of ductile iron to gray iron is 25%.

In the U.S., ductile iron production is now 60% of gray iron production, while in Russia and other Socialist Republics the ratio is only 4%-this means that these other countries are in the equivalent of the late 1940s in foundry technology. The European Community (EC) and Eastern Bloc countries are at 46% and 25%, respectively.

The growth of ductile iron for the years 1950-2000 is shown in Fig. 2. Initial growth took place in automotive applications and in ductile iron pipe. Through the 1990s, this growth will be in other nonvehicle industries and especially in low-to medium-quantity markets.

Currency Exchange Rates

Figure 3 shows that the exchange rate can affect the export/import market drastically. For example, at the current currency exchange rate of 1.76 DM/ U.S. dollar, U.S. production of ductile iron crankshafts can be competitive with German production, despite the charges for duty and freight. Therefore, U.S. foundries can expect to find a market in the EC countries for these exported castings. The DM/U.S. dollar rate is expected to stay around 1.7 to 1.8. Thus, U.S. ductile iron exports-should exceed imports.

Similarly, at the current rate of 6 French Francs/U.S. dollar, U.S. aluminum castings should be able to compete in Europe while French producers cannot compete in the U.S.

Worldwide Trends

Generally, global trends in casting production are as follows.

The demand for castings worldwide is increasing slightly, with the greatest growth expected to be in ductile iron, aluminum and stainless steel. Gray iron demand is declining, with potential growth expected in special niche markets.

Russia and Eastern Bloc countries are at least 40 years behind in casting technology.

European Community countries will offer significant market opportunities. Foundries in India, Mexico, Brazil, Taiwan and Korea will continue to export to the U.S. and Europe, and Japan is expected to pursue transplant strategies on a worldwide basis.

Kenneth E. Kirgin is a partner of the International Metalcasters Council, Inc. as well as president of Stratecasts, Inc. Both firms are located in Ft. Myers, Florida.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Foundry Society, Inc.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Forecasts & Trends '92
Author:Kirgin, Kenneth E.
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:Rebound in casting markets bodes well for U.S. foundries.
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