Our February issue focus is nonferrous, and much of our content this month deals with things nonferrous. Check out our feature articles on the following topics: improving aluminum coil annealing, burner retrofits for aluminum furnaces, carbon-composite hot-zone upgrades and induction scanning.
As usual, much of the current nonferrous news is aluminum and involves Alcoa. The company just completed their annual investor meeting on Jan. 11.
Results for Q-4 and for the full year of 2015 showed slight losses compared to gains in 2014. Alcoa plans to permanently eliminate several smelting/refining operations. These closings will result in layoffs of more than 1,200 in Texas and Indiana alone.
Alcoa predicts that 2016 will be another strong year for global aerospace sales. The very same day as their meeting, the company announced that they signed a $1.5 billion contract with GE Aviation. Per the agreement, Alcoa will provide nickel-based superalloy, aluminum and titanium materials to General Electric. In December, Alcoa entered into two agreements worth $2.5 billion with Boeing to provide titanium seat-track assemblies, advanced titanium, alloy steel, stainless steel, nickel-based superalloy and advanced fastening systems. Boeing and Airbus set new records for aircraft deliveries in 2015, with Boeing up 5.4% from 2014.
The Global Lightweight Vehicle Manufacturing Summit was held earlier in 2015. The premise is that lightweighting is essential to meet CAFÉ standards, so how do we cost-effectively manufacture the new generation of vehicles containing multiple materials? It is their belief that carbon-fiber composites are in the advanced-development phase and are not viable in the next three to five years for medium- to high-volume vehicles.
One of those high-volume vehicles using aluminum in 2015 was the Ford F-150. Upwards of 800-900 million pounds of aluminum is needed each year for the F-150. This quantity is divided between Alcoa and Novelis. Using the F-150’s tailgate panel as a comparison test sample (vs. steel), the aluminum is 55% thicker, 45% lighter, 30% more dent-resistant and 20% stiffer.
Platts is reporting that China is expected to construct 7 million mt/year of new smelting capacity in 2016, an increase of about 18%. It is this Chinese capacity (and illegal subsidies) that is creating six-year lows in aluminum prices. These low prices are the reason for Alcoa’s 2015 underperformance.
Acknowledging this fight for survival, Century Aluminum is leading an aggressive campaign to challenge China’s aluminum exports. Supported by Alcoa’s announcement to shutter smelters, a Century Aluminum spokesman said that the U.S. is going to lose the aluminum smelting business entirely in just a matter of time if things continue as is.
Using their Rapid Plasma Deposition (RPD) process, Norsk Titanium AS continues to grow to meet aerospace demand. Norsk recently hired three leaders with aerospace backgrounds to help them accelerate their growth and “fundamentally change the aerospace titanium industry.” As we mentioned in previous discussions, titanium is being used more heavily in composite aircraft because aluminum is incompatible with carbon fiber.
It’s been a while since we mentioned an Industrial Heating resource written by yours truly. Everyday Metallurgy is a coffee-table-type book that provides an attractive and compelling look at what we do and how it applies to everyone. Some of the nonferrous topics covered are jewelry, jet engines, artificial joints, coins, analuminum guitar, bicycle frames, piano strings and the Liberty Bell. We even throw in the kitchen sink and much more.
If you would like to have a great way to tell or show folks what you do and why it’s important, Everyday Metallurgy could be just the ticket. You can order your own copies by going to www.industrialheating.com/everyday-metallurgy. Enjoy!