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PLASTICS VYING WITH DIECAST METALS FOR $6 BILLION WORLDWIDE MARKET, ACCORDING TO NEW CHARLES RIVER ASSOCIATES REPORT

PLASTICS VYING WITH DIECAST METALS FOR $6 BILLION WORLDWIDE MARKET,
 ACCORDING TO NEW CHARLES RIVER ASSOCIATES REPORT
 BOSTON, Feb. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Worldwide, diecasting consumed over 2.4 million tonnes of metal alloys in 1990. A significant portion of this tonnage is being challenged by other engineering materials. According to a new multiclient report issued by Charles River Associates on intermaterial competition, up to a third of this volume is being contested by engineering thermosets and thermoplastics and by other metal processes, including stamping, evaporative- core molding, and other castings.
 CRA's multiclient report, Plastics and Metals: What Does the Future Hold? Volume 1: Diecast Metals, finds that in North America, diecastings, plastics, and other materials/processes compete for over 700,000 tonnes of volume applications valued at more than $2.5 billion. Both plastics and diecastings are expected to grow in this competitive intersection at the expense of other processes. Plastics' advantage is primarily in superior market development by plastics suppliers compared to metal alloy suppliers, and secondly in weight and cost savings accomplished through parts consolidation; diecasting will also use parts consolidation to capture market share from stampings and other castings. The projected penetration rates for the respective materials depend on the relative marketing efforts dedicated to the areas of competition by raw material suppliers. Overall, plastics are expected to be the biggest winner, with increased penetration in the major growth applications.
 According to CRA's Ken Jacobson, who managed the analysis in the multiclient report, diecast metal replacement historically has been at the expense of zinc, as automakers have attempted to increase fuel efficiency. In the future, plastics will compete mainly with aluminum and magnesium, primarily in automotive applications. Despite the traditional conception that plastics parts are always less expensive than diecastings, in certain applications diecasting has a cost advantage. For example, if the parts involved are heavy, are fabricated in medium-length production runs, or require little finishing, diecasting can be cheaper than plastics. Given the diversity of advantages in raw materials, processing, tooling, and finishing for plastics, the range of plastics' competitive cost advantage runs from a high of as much as 130 percent to a disadvantage of as much as 40 percent.
 Automotive intake manifolds provide a good example of the competitive battles underway among plastics, diecasting, and other fabrication processes. Lost-core molding, an innovative technology for producing hollow plastic parts, has been adopted by many intake manifold manufacturers. According to CRA's analysis, lost-core-molded nylon or vinyl ester BMC manifolds are considerably less expensive than traditional semi-permanent mold castings or evaporative-core castings of aluminum. Several major suppliers, including Dunlop, Siemens, Freudenberg, Handy and Harman, and Solvay, are investing upwards of $4 million per production cell to produce lost-core manifolds. Despite these successes, however, CRA found that two competing technologies may limit lost-core penetration.
 -- Doehler-Jarvis has developed an innovative, proprietary
 version of expendable-core aluminum diecasting, called
 "DoehlerCore." Although this process originally was
 developed for engine blocks, it may be adaptable for
 manifolds. Similarly, Ryobi, a major Japanese automotive
 transplant diecaster also involved in manufacturing power
 tools, hardware, printing equipment, and sporting goods,
 has a new expendable-core technique that may challenge
 lost-core plastics in the intake manifold market.
 -- Another plastics manufacturing technique that may prove
 easier and less expensive than the lost-core method involves
 injection molding of the intake manifold in two halves, and
 then vibration welding to join the halves. The French firm
 Orbey already uses this technique instead of lost-core-molded
 BMC on some European Ford diesel engine intake manifolds.
 General Motors is also interested in this technique.
 Diecasters have had some success in recapturing markets lost to plastics in conventional injection molding applications. In particular, diecasters have mitigated their cost disadvantages through a combination of SPC/SQC, thinwalling, automated finishing, and high purity magnesium alloys. Magnesium with a specific gravity of 1.8 is only slightly denser than engineering thermoplastics and is equal in density to thermosets. This minor disadvantage is more than compensated for by magnesium's superior stiffness and by manufacturers' ability to consolidate magnesium parts by casting integrated support brackets and logos and simplified fastening systems. According to the CRA analysis, magnesium is likely to penetrate such plastics markets as automotive instrument panels, portable electronics, office automation, lawn, garden, and power tools, and other areas where light weight and high strength are critical.
 Charles River Associates completed its detailed analysis in early 1992 of the intermaterial competitive zone for plastics, diecasting, and other fabrication processes. To assist clients in targeting the most competitive zones for their materials, CRA developed a matrix of factors that enhance the cost competitiveness of one process over another. Plastics and Metals: What Does the Future Hold? Volume 1: Diecast Metals includes details on injection molding, compression molding, lost-core molding (plastics), evaporative-core molding (aluminum), and diecasting. The study is designed to help metals and plastics producers, diecasters, injection and compression molders, and OEMs better understand the alternative processes. CRA's extensive expertise in both plastics and metals permits an objective assessment of the level of intermaterial competition between plastic and diecast parts. For more information on this multiclient report or on CRA's skills in the areas of plastics and metals manufacturing, contact Robert Eller or Ken Jacobson at CRA in Boston, 617-266-0500.
 ---
 NOTE TO EDITORS: Three illustrative exhibits are available upon request from Harriet Ullman at Charles River Associates, 617-266-0500, ext. 125.
 -0- 2/3/92
 /CONTACTS: Robert Eller or Kenneth Jacobson of Charles River Associates Incorporated, 617-266-0500/ CO: Charles River Associates Incorporated ST: Massachusetts IN: AUT MNG CHM SU:


SH -- NE007 -- 6220 02/03/92 13:03 EST
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