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Metal Casting Technologies : September 2006
www.metals.rala.com.au 28 THAILAND Automotive still motoring but others apply brakes By Dr John Pearce Oil and Politics are Main Concerns During the last 12 months the Thai economy and the Thai foundry industry have been faced with a number of problems including ever increasing raw material and oil/energy costs, a stronger Baht plus fluctuating foreign exchange rates, higher interest rates and not least political concerns, with the current political stalemate delaying infrastructure investment decisions. As a result economic growth and confidence levels have in general weakened across all business sectors. The date of the elections to form the next government has been set as 15th October but this has resulted in only a slight improvement in business sentiment since there is some uncertainty about the vote taking place as planned. Currently the caretaker governing Thai Rak Thai party, the opposition Democrats, and three smaller parties are all subjects of a Constitution Court review of alleged breaches of electoral regulations. Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) surveys have shown that the economic sentiment among manufacturing companies for June was the lowest so far this year with the main worries of manufacturers being oil and materials costs, interest rates, and the decline in spending by Thai consumers. For example, car sales in Thailand dropped by 12% between May and June following a downward trend since March. However vehicle and auto-parts production, and their levels of export remain bright. The foundry and its supply industry here always keep a weather eye on auto production and sales. Over 1 million cars were produced in 2005. Current forecasts are that 2006 will end with the number of exported vehicles up to around 540,500, a 24% increase on 2005, with home sales expected to be at just over 700,000, only up by 1.5%. Some Investment Continues In Thailand most of the larger automotive foundries are Japanese joint ventures. Both the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and the Japan External Trade Organization have expressed concerns over the current economic/political climate but have said Thailand is still second only to China in attraction for Japanese investment, and that investment plans over the next two years or so were likely to proceed without cutbacks. Separate investment figures for metal castings production The test bars produced using the automatic pouring unit show far less variation (greater value for Weibull Modulus) than manually poured bars and hence provide a more reliable assessment of melt quality. Weibull plots of ultimate tensile strength data sets of ASTM standard test specimens of as-cast A356 (Al --Si --Mg ) produced by the automatic pouring mold system and by manual pouring MTEC engineers setting up the auto test bar pouring unit. AsianFoundryOverview