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Supply tightening in some classes.

Supply shortages are expected in '98 for some high production iron, very large steel and aluminum permanent mold castings. These shortages are expected to continue in '99 as the economic expansion continues. This growth in demand is being spurred by continued growth in the motor vehicle and other market sectors, and by conversion from other metals and production processes.

Gray Iron

Forecasts call for 1.77 million tons of high production gray iron parts to be cast in the 0-50 lb casting range, or 38% of the total medium-to-high (M/H) production volume. The demand/supply (D/S) ratio is expected to be tight (0.94) for this class, leaving only a 6% surplus.

The 50-150 lb class of M/H production is forecast to be slightly higher at 1.78 million tons with a surplus of supply of about 13%. The total surplus for all engineered castings is forecast at 0.88, with 750,000 tons of surplus capacity.

Motor Vehicles - The demand for M/H quantity castings in the 0-50 lb weight range is forecast to come in at 820,000 tons in '98, 8% over '97. This projection is based on production of 12.2 million light vehicles. It is expected that 1,059,000 tons of gray iron castings will be produced in the 50-150 lb range. Most of these castings are engine block and cylinder head castings, a high percentage of which is scheduled to be converted to aluminum during the next five years.

With a forecasted demand of nearly 1 million tons of automotive gray iron castings to be made on vertically parted molding machines, a domestic supply shortage is forecast for '98.

Internal Combustion Engines - The forecast for increased medium-to-heavy trucks and diesel engine demand has boosted the demand for M/ H quantity gray iron castings in the 50-150 lb and 151-300 lb ranges. This could lead to a tight supply situation for these castings in '98. The recent closing of captive facilities has put more pressure on outside jobbing foundries to fill casting needs.

Household Appliances - Demand for high production castings in the 0-50 lb range has steadily decreased and is now forecast at 77,000 tons. The continued conversion to plastics and light metals will probably lower this tonnage in '99.

Refrigeration/AC - The major portion of gray iron use in this market sector is in the 0-50 lb range. This market is expected to use 111,000 tons in '98. Most of this tonnage is produced on flaskless green sand molding machines, however, nearly 10% has been converted to the shell molding process, causing a possible shortage in the supply of shell-molded gray iron.

Pumps & Compressors - Based on the continued expansion of the industrial sector, the compressor market is forecast to expand in '98 and increase the demand for heavily cored castings in the 300-700 lb and over-700 lb classes. The captive supply in this market has dwindled to only one major producer.

Ductile Iron

The 0-50 lb range of high production castings dominates the demand for ductile iron at 1.4 million tons, or 64% of the total M/H production. The D/S ratio for this class is 0.90, with only 10% surplus capacity. Because of decreased captive supply, the 50-150 lb class could see shortages. The D/S ratio of this class is estimated at 0.98, with only a 2% surplus.

Motor Vehicle - The less than 50 lb casting range again dominates the M/H production of ductile iron with 990,000 tons of consumption in passenger cars and light trucks and 138,000 tons in medium to heavy trucks. Castings made with vertically parted molding machines, in weights up to 100 lb per casting, make up nearly 1 million tons, and are expected to be in short supply by '99. The possible closing of captive facilities could add 100,000 tons to the noncaptive supply and pose domestic supply problems in the U.S., especially in suspension and brake castings.

Valves & Fittings - The highest tonnage for these castings lies in the 50-150 lb range produced by ductile iron pipe manufacturers for use with centrifugally cast pipe in water distribution systems. Malleable iron continues to be specified for threaded pipe fittings. However, some have been converted to ductile iron and are included in the less than 50 lb class.

Farm Machinery and Equipment - The healthy farm machinery market consumes a sizeable amount of the ductile iron production. The small high-production casting market consumes 37,000 tons of the 125,000-ton total. A reduction in captive tonnage has increased this market for noncaptive foundries.

Special Industry Machinery - This market consumes a sizeable part of the over-300 lb and the over-5000 lb casting class. Housings for plastic machinery and castings for printing and papermaking machinery consume the majority of the tonnage in this market sector.

Construction Machinery and Equipment - Conversion of castings from steel to ductile iron in rear-end vehicle housings has increased the demand in the ranges covering 56-700 lb. Differential carriers and suspension castings also consume a sizeable part of this sector.


The majority of the nonrailroad carbon and low alloy steel castings are consumed in the less than 100 lb and 101-500 lb casting ranges. These could be in tight supply in '98 or '99 under present forecast conditions. It is projected that 364,000 tons of castings will be consumed in '98 in these two weight ranges. D/S ratios of over 0.90 are forecast, indicating potential supply problems. Heavy castings of over 10,000 lb are forecast to reach 35,000 tons, and could be in tight supply at a D/S ratio of 0.90.

Railroad - Railroad castings including wheels, bolsters, side frames, couplers and yokes are primarily in the 1001000 lb range. These are forecast to reach 630,000 tons in '98 if the expected freight car production of 50,000 cars is reached. At present, supply facilities are adequate to meet these casting demands.

Construction and Mining - The majority of castings for these markets are in the medium casting range from 50-500 lb, however, a sizeable market of heavy castings also exists. Growth for these castings is expected, based on a healthy mining and construction machinery forecast.

Valves/Pumps - Valve and pump industries continue to offer a healthy market for both carbon and corrosion-resistant steels. The low to medium casting weight ranges consumes over 70% of these steels. However, there is a sizeable market for castings over 5000 lb.


A demand of nearly 1.8 million tons of aluminum castings is forecast for '98. Motor vehicle consumption dominates the market with 54% of the total. The high-pressure diecasting demand is forecasted at 1 million tons, while semipermanent mold (SPM) aluminum production is forecast at 361,000 tons. D/S conditions indicate a supply problem for SPM aluminum, at a 0.93 ratio, while diecasting supply is adequate at 0.85.

Diecast aluminum dominates the motor vehicle market at 544,000 tons. Low pressure die castings and lost foam aluminum, primarily used for cylinder heads, are forecast at 100,000 tons and 60,000 tons, respectively. SPM aluminum parts are forecast at 205,000 tons, while aluminum sand casting, used primarily for intake manifolds, is expected to consume 63,000 tons. The future market for aluminum heads and engine blocks is expected to cause a shortage of casting capacity in low pressure and lost foam facilities.

Shipments - '96 vs. '97

In all likelihood, '97 will be another good year for metal casting shipments. Basically, shipments in most categories will come in at about the same levels as '96. The forecasted downturn in housing starts in the latter half of '97 is expected to result in a slight decline in demand for pipe, valves, fittings, municipal parts and sanitary castings.

Though most markets for ductile iron increased in '97, an expected decline in pressure pipe shipments could cause a 1% total loss. The slight increase in light vehicle production is forecast to spur gray iron to a small gain in '97. Steel railroad casting decreases in '97 could cause an overall decline of 4% in steel casting shipments. Aluminum is expected to gain with auto production, and with conversion from gray iron in key engine castings.
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Title Annotation:metal casting trends
Author:Kirgin, Kenneth H.
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Sep 1, 1997
Previous Article:FEF: securing tomorrow's foundry leaders.
Next Article:Direct shell sand rapid prototyping: from CAD to casting in days.

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