Casting processes are the only way to manufacture many functional metal parts economically – or at all. The foundry industry is a major supplier to other sectors of industry, is responsible for much of the technical progress made and is therefore important to many national economies. To remain competitive, production resources with which operating costs can be reduced and individual strengths improved, are required. The International Foundry Trade Fair GIFA 2015, taking place from June 16 – 20, 2015 in Düsseldorf, Germany, will showcase the latest in foundry machinery technology and all areas of manufacturing technology.
A total of more than 100 million tons of castings, parts made from cast standard/malleable iron and steel (EST castings) or non-ferrous metals are manufactured all over the world every year. According to the most recent global statistics, the total volume in 2013 was 103.2 million tons, with the following breakdown: EST castings 84.8 million tons, aluminum 15.4 million tons and other non-ferrous metals 3 million tons.
Apart from political developments and their consequences, the foundry industry depends heavily on the development of the automotive industry, machinery manufacturing, the construction industry and the energy market. According to figures calculated by the National Association of the German Foundry Industry, a good 50 percent of the castings manufactured in Germany are, for example, supplied to the automotive industry, while just fewer than 25 precent are used in machinery manufacturing.
At the International Foundry Forum (IFF) in Venice (Italy) in September 2014, the President of the European Foundry Association, Luis Filipe Villas-Boas, drew attention to uncertain geopolitical conditions, which were reducing the willingness to invest in many areas of the industry, although the non-ferrous sector was developing better than the ferrous sector. Dr. Ioannis Ioannidis, Vice-President of the European Foundry Equipment Suppliers Association and Chairman of the Board of the VDMA Foundry Machine Association, agrees and stated in December 2014: “Business is slower at steel and iron foundries, whereas it is developing more positively at die and permanent mold casting foundries.”
The automotive industry has always had a major influence on the geographic and technical development of the foundry sector. Dr. Heinz Büchner from IKB Industriebank expects demand for castings from the automotive industry to increase in general over the next decade. Rising prosperity in the emerging markets is likely to drive growth on the car market, while stricter legal regulations about energy efficiency and emissions should lead to higher sales on the European market. Starting in 2018, EST castings will most likely be substituted by lightweight metal castings for certain parts when new car models will be introduced. According to Dr. Ioannidis, smaller and smaller engines are being developed, which need to be able to cope with increasingly high-performance operation. Foundries and their suppliers are expected to develop important components for this. More materials will be combined with each other in the future, too. The objective is to manufacture parts with better proper ties but lower production costs. The foundry industry can expect high growth in the machinery manufacturing, chemical, food and energy generation industries as well. Resource and energy efficiency will in general become a considerably more important issue.
The IKB market survey reveals that the markets for the European foundry industry will be shifting to a larger extent towards Eastern Europe and East Asia. China has become a more significant sales market for foundry machinery again, which is associated with the anticipated expansion of casting capacities. In view of the political and economic sanctions and their impact on project funding, the situation in Russia is likely to become substantially more difficult. At the International Foundry Forum, Andrew Dibrov, Vice-President of the Russian Association of Foundrymen, pointed out that Russian foundries need modern equipment for such areas as casting and medium-frequency furnaces, but he also drew attention to the fact that the current political sanctions would have the effect that the business community in the country will increasingly turn to the East. When Russian banks provide support to companies, Asian suppliers would then be preferred, although European manufacturers would also be commissioned if they have manufacturing facilities in Russia or Asia.
The situation in the NAFTA area, which is being re-industrialized due to favorable energy costs, can, in general, be considered good. A large proportion of the growth is taking place in Mexico. This development is leading to higher demand for casting production capacities and the relevant manufacturing equipment.