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Vehicle sales, housing starts spur growth in castings.

Passenger cars and light truck sales continue to increase over 1992 levels, providing an immediate domestic market for iron and aluminum foundries. Slackening export sales to a recessive European market, however, have hurt overall sales.

Domestic car sales continue upward at an annual growth trend of 9% over 1992. Domestic light truck sales are forecasted to grow at a rate of 16%, while medium and heavy trucks could increase 15% over 1992. The latter has spurred growth in such casting markets as diesel engines, air conditioners, machine tools and other industries that supply auto manufacturers.

The continued recession in Japan - three consecutive years of auto sales losses combined with the strong yen - has forced Japanese automobile and truck makers to consider supplying the U.S. market with vehicles and parts from transplants at American locations.

At the same time, low interest rates have spurred a resurgence in housing starts, increasing the forecast for 1993 to 11% over 1992. Industries, such as valve and pipe fittings, centrifugal cast pipe, construction equipment, municipal castings and soil pipe, are affected by the increase in residential housing and are growing despite lower exports and an increasing import problem from Asiatic countries.

The positive outlook for these two key markets is feeding the continued upswing for metal castings. Following is a brief rundown on the status of the major cast metals groups.


Based on interviews of key personnel at domestic OEM and transplant companies, aluminum casting use will see significant growth in almost every major engine component. With this projected growth in mind, plus forecasts of other applications of cast aluminum in motor vehicles, Table 1 shows estimates of aluminum tonnage produced.
Table 1. Growth in Demand for Aluminum
Auto Castings in U.S., 1992-1998

1992 631,000 tons
1993 742,000 tons
1994 823,000 tons
1995 806,000 tons
1996 690,000 tons
1997 956,000 tons
1989 1,080,000 tons

The improvement in housing starts has also spurred immediate growth of aluminum die casting sales in lawn and garden equipment, power hand tools, meters and regulators, household appliances, electrical and communications equipment, and in air conditioning compressors.

Gray Iron

Gray iron foundries in most market segments have recovered from the 1991 recession but have reached only marginal break-even utilization of capacity. It is forecasted that gray iron casting production is to grow to 5.7 million tons, an increase of 8% over 1992. We expect that gray iron tonnage will peak at 6 million tons in 1994 and continue to decline at a rate of 0.7% per year.

Though gray iron production is forecasted to decline to a new low in the year 2001, there will be gainers in some market segments.

Ductile Iron

Ductile iron castings continue to replace malleable iron and steel castings as well as fabrications and forgings in applications in many markets. Ferritic ductile iron has replaced cast steel truck hubs and wheels on medium to heavy trucks and other vehicles. The ferritic grade is also being used for differential carriers and axle housings on off-the-road equipment and tractors.

Ductile iron pressure pipe, now 46% of the total ductile iron market, is forecasted to reach a peak level of 1,880,000 tons in 1994. Increases in housing starts and construction activity, coupled with increases in exports, are forecasted to increase the demand for pipe by 9% in 1994. Total ductile iron shipments in the U.S. should exceed 4 million tons in 1994 for the first time.


Steel foundries are slowly recovering from the 1991 recession with help from increased construction and mining activity. Despite the excess of commercial building and office space in the U.S., the construction industry began a comeback and equipment manufacturers have increased production.

Exports of construction and mining equipment, which account for 25% of sales of some major manufacturers, have suffered from the continuing recessions in Europe and Asia. As these countries begin to emerge from their slump, construction activity will increase, and markets for equipment made by U.S. manufacturers will grow.

The railroad freight car industry continues to consume 49% of the carbon and low-alloy steel castings produced. In 1993, 500,000 tons of steel castings are estimated to be shipped to this market.

The resurgence of construction of refineries and chemical plants, coupled with the investment into new food products machinery, has also increased the demand for pressure castings made of CF3, CF8, CF8M and other corrosion-resistant alloys. Heat-resistant steels are forecasted to reach a peak of 33,000 tons in 1994 as requirements increase for heat treatment process parts.

Brass and Bronze

The short-term growth of brass and bronze castings is forecasted at 7% a year from 294,000 tons in 1992, to 316,000 tons in 1993, and to peak at 339,000 tons in 1994 based on growth in valves, fittings and plumbing and sanitary applications.

A key growth area for bronze and brass castings lies in industrial valves and fittings. In the early 1980s, nearly 25% of the total demand in the U.S. was supplied by imports from Japan and other Asiatic countries. U.S. copper-base foundries have regained much of the loss and today are supplying 88% of the market.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Foundry Society, Inc.
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Metal Casting Trends
Author:Kirgin, Kenneth H.
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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