Our February issue focus is nonferrous, and much of our content this month covers nonferrous materials. Check out our feature articles on the following topics: aluminum scrap recycling furnace, copper processing for firearms and low-cost titanium.

Nonferrous News

If you saw our Best-of 2016 magEzine just before Christmas, you will know that our most popular news story of the year was nonferrous. It was about the Chinese billionaire who attempted to hide $2 billion worth of aluminum (6% of the world’s supply) in the Mexican desert hoping to skirt trade restrictions using the NAFTA umbrella. Our update (from the Wall Street Journal) indicated that Liu Zhongtian then moved the metal to a remote portion of southern Vietnam. It’s quite an intriguing (and potentially market-damaging) story involving our common light metal.

Other big news in 2016 involved Alcoa Corp. separating from Alcoa Inc., now Arconic Inc. Alcoa’s portfolio is comprised of six businesses across the aluminum value chain: bauxite, alumina, aluminum, cast products, rolled products and energy. The company’s footprint includes 25 manufacturing facilities worldwide and approximately 16,000 employees.

In spite of a new report indicating that “the global primary aluminum industry economy is witnessing its slowest growth phase in the past two decades,” Novelis Inc. is predicting that global demand for aluminum will increase 4-5% in 2017 and that competition with China will be “very fierce” over the next five to 10 years in sectors such as automotive and aerospace.

A deal announced in August would put more aluminum under the control of China with Zhongwang USA’s acquisition of rolled-products producer Aleris. This possibility has created some national-security concerns here in the U.S. China might be looking for sources outside of the mainland because recent smog levels there are threatening to shutdown pollution-generating aluminum smelters.

Speaking of pollution and aluminum’s contribution to it, we have previously warned that governmental regulatory actions could hurt the aluminum industry and other parts of high-temperature thermal processing. It will be interesting to see how a fresh perspective from the incoming Trump administration might alter this trajectory in 2017 and beyond.

New technologies such as additive manufacturing are presently impacting the nonferrous world, perhaps more than ferrous. We recently reported on a new technology that will reduce the cost of producing titanium. Called FASTforge, the work in progress is developing a three-step process to make titanium metal from rutile sand (mostly TiO2). The expected completion of the project is mid-2018. This month’s article discusses another low-cost titanium production method.

Titanium has been applied to orthopedic and biomedical applications for years due to its compatibility with bodily fluids. Recently, much work has been undertaken to develop alloys that more closely agree with the mechanical properties (elongation) of bone material.

World PM2016 Congress and Exhibition took place in Hamburg, Germany, last October, and multiple presentations discussed work in powder-metal processes (MIM) for several different (new) titanium alloys to replace existing alloys such as Ti-6Al-4V. An article in Powder Injection Moulding International nicely summarizes several of these presentations. The article located on page 51 of their December issue spells out the progress being made in the development of new PM alloys of titanium for biomedical applications. Use the QR Code to take you directly to the source.

A Resource

When I think of nonferrous, an Industrial Heating resource written by yours truly comes to mind. 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, an aluminum guitar, bicycle frames, piano strings and the Liberty Bell. We even throw in the kitchen sink and much more.

Everyday Metallurgy could be just what you need to tell or show folks what you do and why it’s important. You can order your own copies by going to our bookstore at www.industrialheating.com/everyday-metallurgy. Enjoy!