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Metal Casting Technologies : June 2006
BRIEFINGS Thailand reports March trade surplus Dr John Pearce has reported that set against a background of the uncertain political situation, the rising costs of oil, and the recent strengthening of the Thai Baht, Thai exports for March 2006 (sourced from the Ministry of Commerce) have reached a 5 year high. The export value of just over 11 billion USD was nearly 16% higher than for March 2005. Manufacturing is leading the way with steady and continued growth in the export of vehicles and auto-parts, electronic goods and electrical appliances. Although imports were also up, by 1.3%, Thailand recorded a trade surplus of some 300 million USD, the first surplus for 6 months. During the first 3 months of this year the value of exports grew by 17.3%, with imports rising only 6.7%. The stronger Baht, up nearly 8% against the US Dollar since the start of 2006, has pleased those foundries importing raw materials and equipment, and has also offset some of the increased oil costs, but is a growing concern to some with export customers. The increasing costs of energy may at last drive some foundries to do more than just think about saving energy! With worries over exports and the economy, one recent positive announcement for Thai vehicle parts suppliers was the news that Australian Defence Industries and Loxley of Thailand are to cooperate in the development and production of armoured personnel carriers. Around 70% of the components needed for a new range would be sourced in Thailand including the engine and transmission. Eventually some vehicle assembly will move to Thailand via technology transfer from Australia. Manifold producer plans $40-million foundry operation China Wescast Industries Inc. has signed an "investment agreement" with the Administration Committee of Wuhan Economic and Technological Development Zone which is preliminary to establishing an integrated foundry and machining facility at Wuhan, in China's Hubei province. Based in Brantford, ON, Wescast claims to be the world's largest supplier of exhaust manifolds for passenger cars and light trucks. It designs, casts, machines, and assembles cast-iron exhaust manifolds, integrated turbo manifolds, and turbo-charger turbine housings for automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers. It has seven plants and three sales/design centers in Canada, the U.S., and Germany. The company said its development in China is budgeted at about $40 million USD over the next two years, and will be staged, beginning with a machining facility in 2007. The metalcasting operation will begin in 2008. Wescast stated its staged approach will give it time to develop customer relationships and local management and operating resources. China's iron alloy capacity to reduce China's capacity will reduce to 25 pct from its 2005 level, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a statement on its website. The statement said that that the sector is suffering from severe oversupply, with total capacity at the end of 2005 standing at 22.13 million tons, while output was just 10.67 mln tons. "Small-size producers or producers with high pollution levels, high energy consumption and outdated technology will be gradually shut down," the NDRC said. The statement went on to say that electronic furnaces below 5,000 kVA (kilovolt ampere) and blast furnaces below 100 cubic meters will be gradually closed between 2006-2010. Companies with a capacity of more than 100,000 tons are expected to produce more than 40 pct of the country's iron alloy by the end of 2010, the NDRC said. The regulator said it will not approve the construction of new electronic furnaces with a capacity below 25,000 kVA, high pollution levels or high energy consumption. The construction of manganese iron blast furnaces below 300 cubic meters will also not be approved in the next five years, the NDRC said. The NDRC also recommended that China limits its exports of iron alloy. New giant payload capacity furnace increases Heat Treatment potential Heat Treatment Australia can now process payloads of a tonne in weight, and large scale parts, with the installation of a new sealed quench furnace at its Coopers Plains headquarters in Brisbane, Australia. Ideal for meeting the requirements of mining industry equipment, spare parts and gear suppliers the $1 million furnace operates with the aid of powerful computer software 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Heat Treatment Australia Managing Director Norm Tucker said the furnace had exceptional quality control characteristics with no rejects in 200 days of operation to date. An operator loaded the baskets into the furnace, selected a pre-defined program, and the furnace did the rest. It caters for individual parts 800mm wide, 1.2m long and 600mm high. Long parts of large diameter remained flat and METAL Casting Technologies June 2006 Norm Tucker 10