Steeling Against Rough Weather



In its latest World Economic Outlook (WEO) released in October 2015, the International Monetary Foundation (IMF) characterised global economic growth as moderate and uneven. This translated to a modest 3.1 per cent growth for 2015, followed by a slight improvement to 3.6 per cent in 2016. In its briefing, the IMF noted that the global economy remains at the intersection of several forces. One of these forces is China’s transformation from an economy built on investment and manufacturing, to one based on consumption and services. The other is the global fall in commodity prices, a trend brought about by over production and tepid demand in recent years. 

Looking forward, the global metalworking sector will need to navigate increased market volatility. Demand from traditional sectors such as infrastructure development, resource exploration and aerospace engineering is expected to fluctuate depending on the developments in the broader economy. 

Permanent Magnets 

The usage of permanent magnets is pervasive in our everyday life. Household appliances, consumer electronics, power generators and motor engines – these are just some of the common devices and machines incorporating permanent magnets into their function. These permanent magnets are made from materials, which are already magnetised and retain their own persistent magnetic field. For industrial purposes, they are produced through the process of casting or sintering, from cobalt, nickel, iron and alloys of rare earth elements, as well as naturally occurring minerals.
 
According to a report from Cleveland-based industry research firm The Freedonia Group, the global demand for permanent magnets is forecast to climb 7.3 per cent on an annual basis through 2019 to reach US$16.2 billion. In volume terms, this translates to a 4.6 per cent growth per year to reach 1.2 million metric tons by the same year.
 
On a geographical basis, the Asia Pacific region is the largest regional market for magnets, accounting for 70 per cent of the 2014 world total in value terms. By itself, China accounts for a significant volume due to the tremendous demand wrought by its electronics manufacturing sector. With the increasing digitisation of the world, the demand from electronics – already the largest market for magnets – looks set to grow even further. 

Superalloys   

Without superalloys, many of today’s aerospace engines, industrial gas turbines and auto turbochargers would simply not be possible. This is because normal metals and alloys would largely be unable to withstand the incredibly high stresses, temperature, and corrosive or oxidising environments within these important components. 
 
Based on market research from Technavio, the global superalloys market is set to grow at a CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of 9 per cent from 2015 to 2019, as a result of increasing demand from the aerospace, automotive and industrial component sectors. In 2014, the aerospace sector dominated the market with a share of around 55 per cent. From 2015 to 2019, this sector is set to see even higher demand, with a 10 per cent CAGR expected through the period. Besides their abilities to withstand extreme pressure and heat, one of the reasons why aerospace is seeing such demand for superalloys is its lightweight quality, which aids in fuel-efficiency in planes. 

Lasers

Industrial lasers are commonly used in many engineering sectors, for processes, such as cutting, boring and welding, as well as for cutting small parts. While the name laser is an acronym that stands for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”, the reality is that there are many different types of laser technologies today, such as CO2 lasers, solid state lasers, fiber lasers and excimer lasers. 
 
According to a Markets and Markets research report, the global laser processing marketing is forecast to reach US$17.36 billion by 2020, with an estimated CAGR of 6.15 per cent between 2014 and 2020. In terms of geography, the Asia Pacific region is expected to see the fastest growth rate worldwide. 
 
The same report also noted that one the key factors spurring the adoption of laser technology in manufacturing is its ability to provide a clean and damage-free operation. Another potential source of future growth could be the increasing trend of miniaturisation, especially in the medical, automotive, and electronics markets. Laser processing systems can be used for micromachining purposes, often providing faster and better results.

Machine Tools 

Machine tools are widely used in sectors such as manufacturing, general machinery, automotive, precision engineering, transport and aerospace, amongst others. These tools can largely be categorised based on their functions, such as cutting machine tools, metal forming tools and machine tool accessories.
 
TechNavio analysts have also forecast the global machine tool market to grow at a CAGR of 6.33 per cent from 2013 through to 2018. Meanwhile, a Research and Markets report has also pegged the machine tools market in China to grow at a CAGR of 6.50 per cent from 2014 to 2019.
 
All in all, the outlook for the global metalworking industry remains an upbeat one, despite the relatively modest growth prospects for the global economy. This is largely due to technology advancements in sectors such as aerospace and engineering, which in turn spur demand for increasing degrees of material durability and precision processes.

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