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Metal Casting Technologies : June 2009
LIGHT METALS FEATURE Light Me ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTY COULD LEAD TO GREATER USE OF By Paula Wallace W ith the automotive sector facing an unprecedented financial crisis, the cast metal component sector has an uncertain future. The development of the downstream processing industry in cast light metals such as magnesium or aluminium in Australia is widely linked to demand from local car makers. The downstream processing sector continues to face strong market competition from imported products from Asian producers, and tight operating margins. And with the cost of steel comparatively low car makers have been slow to adopt light metals. However, recent developments suggest that the financial crisis may result in greater use of innovative products and processes. Australia could find itself at an advantage after many years of research and development of light metal casting processes and development of unique alloys. There may also be opportunities further afield, to meet the needs of a growing global population and greater energy needs, according to a paper being given at the Fourth International Light Metals 12 www.metals.rala.com.au Technology conference, held on the Gold Coast from June 28th. An international study released this year by auditors KPMG indicates the automotive sector faces a crisis over the next five years which will bring with it insolvency and increasing restructuring. The costcutting however, is expected to intensify process innovation. This will result in higher manufacturing efficiencies, as well as processes which make better use of the available material. According to the survey, companies who exploit the opportunity in new technologies such as fuel efficient systems are more likely survive the crisis. In relation to automotive applications, the International Institute estimates that one kilogram of aluminium would replace two kilograms of steel and thus save 20 kilograms of carbon dioxide over the life of a vehicle by reducing its weight and fuel consumption. The Aluminum Association has released the results of a study that indicates automakers in North America are increasing their use of aluminium in vehicle design and construction. The research, conducted by Ducker Worldwide, finds that the use of aluminium in automotive products is at an all-time high, averaging 8.6 per cent of vehicle curb weight in 2009 vehicles. The percentage has increased from 2 per cent in 1970 and 5.1 per cent in 1990. The study predicts that the percentage of aluminium in cars and light trucks will increase to nearly 11 per cent of curb weight by 2020. That date is notable for North American automakers, as aluminium replaces heavier materials to improve fuel economy to 35 miles-pergallon by 2020, according to federal fueleconomy mandates. Since the 2006 model year, aluminium content has also experienced steady growth in light vehicle applications in other regions of the world, but especially in Europe and Japan. Worldwide aluminium content is projected to grow to 28 to 30 billion pounds per year – up from the current 16 to 17 billion pounds – between now and 2020, not taking scrap and spare parts into account, according to the Aluminum Association. It estimates a total of 67 vehicles from the European (49) and Japanese (18) markets now contain more than 400 pounds of finished aluminium.