What are metal products?
The steel industry, the business of processing iron ore into steel, which in its simplest form is an iron-carbon alloy, and in some cases, turning that metal into partially finished products or recycling scrap metal into steel. The steel industry grew out of the need for more durable and more easily produced metals. Technological advances in steelmaking during the last half of the 19th cent. played a key role in creating modern economies dependent on rails, automobiles, girders, bridges, and a variety of other steel products.
Iron working can be traced as far back as 3,500 BC in Armenia. The Bessemer process, created independently by Henry Bessemer in England and William Kelly in the United States during the 1850s, allowed the mass production of low-cost steel; the open-hearth process, first introduced in the United States in 1888, made it easier to use domestic iron ores. By the 1880s, the growing demand for steel rails made the United States the world's largest producer. The open-hearth process dominated the steel industry between 1910 and 1960 when it converted to the basic-oxygen process, which produces steel faster, and the electric-arc furnace process, which makes it easier to produce alloys such as stainless steel and to recycle scrap steel.
After World War II, the U.S. steel industry faced increased competition from Japanese and European producers, who rebuilt and modernised their industries. Later, many Third World countries, such as Brazil, built their own steel industries, and large U.S. steelmakers faced increased competition from smaller, nonunion mills ( mini-mills ) that recycle scrap steel. The U.S. produced about half of the world's steel in 1945; in 1999 it was the second-largest producer, with 12% of the world market, behind China and ahead of Japan and Russia.
Since the 1970s, growing competition and the increasing availability of alternative materials, such as plastic, slowed steel industry growth; employment in the U.S. steel industry dropped from 2.5 million in 1974 to less than a million in 1998. Global production stood at 773 million tons in 1997, down from 786 million tons in 1988. U.S. steel production has remained constant since the 1970s at about 100 million tons, but mini-mill companies now produce 50 % of that total. An increase in U.S. demand during the 1990s was largely met by imports, which now account for from about a fifth to a quarter of all steel used annually in the United States. The old-line U.S. steelmakers, losing market share and with a higher wage, health, and retirement costs, experienced a string of bankruptcies beginning in the late 1990s, leading to industry and union pressure for protective tariffs, which were imposed by President George W. Bush in 2002 on most steel from non-NAFTA industrialised nations. Later reduced, the tariffs were found in 2003 to be illegal under World Trade Organization rules, and President Bush reversed the tariffs.
The Metal Industry is primarily concerned with metallurgy and metalworking. At first, the metals are extracted from the metal-ores found in their natural state deep within the earth. Then these ores are purified through a detailed procedure to obtain the metals in their pure form, and these processes comprise metallurgy. Then the pure form of the metal so obtained is used to manufacture structures as well as different machines and parts of machines. The procedures which involve the manufacturing of machines and other useful items from the metals so obtained through the metallurgical processes, constitute metalworking.
The manufacturing of alloys is also carried out in the Metal Industry through the proportionate homogeneous mixing of two or more metallic elements (metals in the pure state). The alloys so formed are mainly manufactured in order to enhance the natural properties of the metals by combining them together. Steel is one of the most popular as well as useful alloys of iron, formed through the chemical combination of mainly iron and carbon. In addition, it may also contain other metals, as added to the combination in order to attain desired properties from the alloy.
Metals are commodities without which a modern industrialised economy could not exist. Iron and steel, in particular, are ubiquitous and are central to meeting basic needs such as housing and mobility. Basic metal production encompasses the activities of smelting or refining ferrous and precious as well as other non-ferrous metals from ore or scrap, using metallurgic techniques. It also comprises the production of metal alloys and super-alloys by adding certain chemical elements to pure metals. The output of smelting and refining, usually in ingot form, is used in rolling, drawing and extruding operations to make products such as plate, sheet, strip, bars, rods, wire, tubes, pipes and hollow profiles, and in molten form to make castings and other basic metal products.
A cyclical industry
Basic metal production experienced a boom in recent years due to a significant increase in commodity prices. New investments, in most developing countries in the form of FDI, created new possibilities for employment and development. Fuelled by the high prices for metals, mergers and acquisitions considerably changed the industry, creating new global players in a sector that had, until recently, been characterised by numerous small (often state-owned) enterprises,
Falling prices for most metals indicate that the growth experienced in the sector has likely come to a halt, suggesting the potential end of the so-called "supercycle" and the return of the cycles that characterised the industry in previous decades. Uncertainties as to employment and its nature in the sector have also been fuelled by calls for the industry to change production processes in ways that would reduce its carbon footprint. Work is being undertaken on assessing the implications of these changes.
Safety and health
Occupational safety and health remain a challenge. In comparison to other manufacturing sectors, risks of severe injuries are generally higher in basic metal production, due to the presence of hazards such as molten metal. These dangers resulting from the nature of the industry are great and need to be adequately addressed, in order to ensure that workers are protected, and production can be carried out safely. For this reason, the ILO has paid particular importance to develop codes (Code of practice on safety and health in iron and steel industry and Code of practice on safety and health in the non-ferrous metals ) assisting all those involved in the industry to improve safety and health records.
Top impacting factors include various aspects, which directly or indirectly impact the overall market growth. The upsurge in demand for metals & metal manufactured products from different end-use sectors is currently driving the market growth. In 2023, the demand from the end-use sectors is anticipated to decline and have a relatively lesser positive impact on the market. Moreover, the ongoing technological advancements associated with different types of metals & related products in different regions is another factor that boosts the market growth and is expected to have a stronger influence on the market in the upcoming period. In addition, a rise in demand for metals & related products from the automotive industry is currently high; however, it is projected to decline in the analysis period, thus retaining lesser impact on the market. Growth in demand from emerging economies represented a lucrative opportunity for market expansion in 2016. However, the impact of the driver is expected to reduce in 2023. Increase in use of recycled metal products is another prospect supporting market growth and is calculated to become more dynamic in 2023.
Volatility in raw material prices was the main restraining factor of the market in 2016, but it is expected to be comparatively stable in 2023 and has less effect on the market. In addition, the increase in competition from substitutes is another limiting aspect of the market, and its influence is projected to increase by 2023.
What are the key benefits?
This report provides an extensive analysis of the current trends and emerging estimations & dynamics in the global metal & metal manufactured products to market from 2017 to 2023, in terms of value and volume.
Detailed analysis of the market by type helps to understand the various types of metals & related products that are currently in use, along with the variants that are expected to gain prominence in the future.
Porters Five Forces analysis highlights the potency of buyers and suppliers to offer a competitive advantage to stakeholders to make profit-oriented business decisions and help strengthen their supplier and buyer network.
Extensive analysis of the market is conducted by following key product positioning and monitoring the top competitors within the market framework.
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What are fabricated metal products?
Fabricated metal products are metal parts that are combined, shaped or otherwise processed to create a useful product. Fabrication is a blanket term for many metalworking processes; these include rolling, punching, stamping, sintering, welding, machining and many others.
Fabrication is a secondary metalworking process. Primary processes involve forming raw metal materials into shapes; extrusion and moulding are both primary processes. Metal fabricators take extrusions and moulded metals and weld them together, bend them and cut them to size. Nearly all products of primary metalworking processes require secondary processing to some extent before they become usable. For example, metal plates don't become hinges until their edges are bent, holes are drilled or punched, and pins are inserted to connect them. Bar stock and small metal rods don't become fasteners until they are machined and slotted. Fabrication services are essential to a long list of industrial operations including the automotive, aerospace, marine, construction, engineering, plumbing, petrochemical exploration and development, food and beverage and commercial product industries. Fabricated metal products are prominent features of most bridges, aeroplanes, ships and buildings. Smaller metal fabrications are also important parts of water tanks, electrical wiring enclosures, metal cabinets, frames, brackets, panels, outdoor grills and even sculptures.
Fabricated metal products are produced by fabrication processes. These processes range in complexity, expense and labour intensity and can be used to create stock products and custom fabrications. Roll formers, for example, involve a long series of rollers in different configurations that are used to bend raw metal into useful products. Roll forming can be a completely automated process once the rollers have been configured. Roll formers are often managed by advanced computer software that monitors and controls the movement and positioning of the rollers, ensuring the closest possible relationship between product concept and reality. On the other end of the labour, the intensity spectrum is processed like press braking, which requires the constant attention of trained technicians. Press brakes are essentially indented workbenches above which are suspended movable pressing tools. The pressing tools are shaped to match the indentation in the workbench, so when a sheet of metal is positioned between the pressing tool and the working surface, the metal is pressed into the indentation, forcing it to take the indentation's shape. A technician is generally required to manually position the metal and operate the pressing tool in this process. Other processes that involve moderate labour intensiveness are semi-automated robotic welding and mechanical punching processes.
What are the end products of steel?
Steel is society's most important industrially produced material. Just think of what would be missing in our everyday life if steel didn't exist! Without steel, our existence would be prehistoric. Our society is wholly dependent on steel and on how we use it.
A large share of the finished steel products, e.g. plate, strip, rods and bars, profiles, wire and tube, are further processed by the engineering industry into products for their intended applications, i.e. the end products. Certain finished products are used directly within the construction industry, e.g. bars and profiles (sections). Some product fabrication also occurs at the steel companies. This so-called manufacturing spans a wide area: from high-purity stainless steel tubing for the electronics industry, metal injection moulded safety components in motor vehicles to welded profiles for structures.
Steel is to be found everywhere. Often it is not visible since it is hidden by other materials, e.g. paint, plastic, concrete or other metals. Here are some examples of steel products:
- Buildings: metal roofing, steel beams, reinforcing steel and mounting brackets.
- Vehicles: private cars, trucks, trains and cycles.
- Infrastructure: Bridges, steel safety barriers for roads, lighting and high voltage pylons, railings and railways.
- Art and design: sculptures and jewellery.
- Machines and tools: press tools, cylinder blocks, lathes, saws and drills.
- Industry: rollers, pipes, machines, cranes, overhead cranes, rushers and drills.
- Medicine: scalpels (lancets), hip implants, suture needles and surgical pins.
- Everyday use: paper clips, scissors, kitchen sink units, radiators, cutlery, saucepans emergency stairways, domestic appliances, sporting equipment and computers.
Steel as a material is, in many cases, unique. For certain applications, no other material can compete with steel, except possibly an even better steel. Moreover, it is often the case that steel is required for producing and working other materials.
General advantages of using steel:
- Steel is the world's most widely used metallic construction material. An important reason for this is steel's combination of competitive price and high performance.
- Steel gives off no emissions that can damage human health.
- Buildings with steel frames offer good safety, high comfort and satisfactory sound insulation. Steel does not retain damp which – in the long term – may cause allergies and health problems.
- Steel has a long useful life.
- Steel can be used advantageously where high hygiene standards are required, e.g. in the food industry and healthcare.
- Steel copes with extreme environments, e.g. corrosive liquids or high heat or pressure.
- All steel can be recycled and reused − over and over again!
- Steel's magnetic properties mean that steel products can be dismantled easily and sorted for recycling or reuse.
To handle the great variety in areas of application, a corresponding variation is required in respect of steel's properties. Steel is, therefore, a classification comprising many different materials with different properties, so-called steel grades.
The development of steel grade properties – such as strength, corrosion resistance and workability – is an ongoing process, and there is much to gain from this development continues. The steel industry's products are wholly necessary for bringing into being a more sustainable society – steel shapes a better future!
Metallic materials are the backbone of modern economies. However, large quantities of CO2 are produced during their production and processing. The metal industry must, therefore, use more climate-friendly processes in the future. The CO2 balance of alloys and their components must also be improved over their entire service life. Dierk Raabe, Director at the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung in Düsseldorf, explains the possibilities that industrial companies already have in this respect as well as the tasks that metallurgists must take on in order to achieve the goal of the sustainable metal industry.
Corrosion protection has a considerable effect because it makes products more durable. This is not only about iron, which rusts, but also other materials such as aluminium or nickel. It is also about corrosion by hydrogen, for example, which has a much more extreme effect on metals than water and oxygen. It can cause hydrogen embrittlement, the damage that can lead to the sudden catastrophic failure of components. This was one of the causes of the Deep Water Horizon disaster, for example. However, it also plays a role in power plants, industrial buildings, and transport, especially if we want to rely more on hydrogen as a source of energy in the future. Even if corrosion protection doesn't sound so exciting to laypeople, it has considerable leverage because up to 4% of the world's economic output is destroyed by corrosion every year.
In which areas is corrosion a particularly big problem?
In some areas, corrosion protection is already quite widespread, for example, in the automotive industry. There used to be an important question when buying a car: how quickly does it rust? That's now a thing of the past. However, industrial infrastructures, skyscrapers, bridges, power stations or trains—just think of the railway accident near Eschede in 1998—are still highly susceptible to corrosion. And this will only multiply when hydrogen is added as an energy source in the next ten years.
Where do you see other opportunities to make steel and other metallic materials more sustainable?
The electrification of metal production will also have a major influence. Aluminium, the second most important metallic material after steel for the aircraft and automotive industries, has long been synthesised through the electrolytic reduction of aluminium ore. This requires a great deal of electricity, some of which is already obtained from renewable sources such as hydropower. You can also produce other metals—even iron—by electrolysis. However, this is not worthwhile because of the high electricity prices. All in all, electrification is one of the biggest levers for the sustainability of primary production and further processing of metals if the electricity comes exclusively from renewable sources.
What conditions are necessary to produce iron with electricity?
The sluggish expansion of the power lines for green electricity should finally speed up the pace because it must be clearly stated that in regions such as the Ruhr, where iron is produced, you will have to wait many more years for a connection to a green power supply sufficient for such industries as a glance at the homepage of the Federal Network Agency shows. In addition, market estimates by the Wuppertal Institute, for example, show that it could take up to 20 years before all-electric processes become competitive.
For the steel industry, however, this would mean that it would have to move from blast furnace production to completely new processes. Is that realistic?
Even for individual parts of integrated steelworks and aluminium smelters, the investment costs are so high that the industry cannot afford to rebuild them every ten years. Initially, however, the blast furnaces could even be left as they are. The industry can replace the carbon for reduction (i.e. coke, coal, biomass, and plastic waste) with up to 20% hydrogen, which would, of course, have to be generated from water using regenerative electricity. And because the steel industry accounts for around 6% of the world's total CO2 emissions, this would have a considerable impact. These processes are already being tested at several places around the world. The industry can also switch production to direct reduction in the medium term. The process involves filling granular oxide pellets (such as those supplied by mines after ore processing) as solids into a furnace and converting them directly with methane. This has long been done in countries where methane is affordable. This process has the advantage that the plants can, in principle, be converted to up to 100% hydrogen.
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So when will iron be smelted with hydrogen?
The completely hydrogen-based process will need 10 to 12 years before it can be placed on the market. It is estimated that they will be approx. 30% more expensive than current blast furnace production. And the CO2 price increase has not yet been fully determined. It may, therefore, be that in 10 years, a 30% increased will be a competitive market price if correspondingly less sustainable competing materials from outside the EU are subjected to comparable conditions. The worst of all solutions would be for metal production to disappear from Europe and for us to buy unsustainable metals from countries outside the EU. Europe needs an independent and sustainable metal producing and processing industry, not least because it generates around €400 billion per year.
What interest could industry in countries like Germany have in exchanging their plants for direct reduction plants?
On the one hand, the steel industry can produce iron in a CO2-reduced manner. Companies already see the necessity for this because they can estimate that the costs will rise in the coming years because of CO2 pricing and because car manufacturers, for example, hope to utilise an increasing fraction of CO2-reduced steel in the future. On the other hand, direct reduction also enables companies to become more flexible. A blast furnace must be kept running continuously. Otherwise, it will break down. With furnaces for direct reduction, companies can adapt much more flexibly to the market and produce steels in various qualities. We are also surprised that the steel industry is already planning and setting about the conversion to such plants on a massive scale worldwide. Some existing plants are already being converted to hydrogen. In the new few years, the metal industry will undergo one of the greatest upheavals in history. For over 3500 years, iron has (in principle) been produced using the same reduction process.
What must political framework conditions be created to make metal production more sustainable?
When making political decisions, we should, in any case, analyse how legislative measures such as subsidies or bans affect the CO2 balance over complete life cycles. For example, if you pumped a lot of money into producing steel completely electrolytically, it would sound great. However, a look at the electricity mix shows that, as with the electric car, there is still 25% brown coal electricity. Then we haven't gained anything. Sustainability must also be thought through in a sustainable way. It's no use showing off.
The traces of recycling: Beverage cans are made from the alloy shown in this atomic moon tomography. In addition to aluminium and manganese, it may also contain smaller amounts of iron, copper, silicon and zinc. After 90 per cent of the material has been recycled by type, it also contains traces of other elements, including vanadium and chromium. Since this alloy already contains many different elements, the Max Planck researchers in Düsseldorf are using it to investigate whether it can also tolerate other elements as impurities and whether it can also be used in recycled form for roof tiles and other construction applications. In atomic moon tomography, atoms of a sample are individually removed and analysed. The result is the image in which the atoms of the main component aluminium appear as small grey dots, all other elements as larger coloured dots. Credit: MPI für Eisenforschung
Where would legal regulations make sense?
For example, incentives for closed scrap cycles in the industry. I'll give you an example: There are some automobile companies that already mainly produce only aluminium cars in the premium segment and, in some cases, process up to 300,000 tonnes of aluminium annually. However, when the components are punched out of the sheet metal, up to 45% of the material is lost. Now you'd think they'd collect their scrap. Because when the aluminium is so pure, it's like cash in hand. But only a few companies do this consistently. For example, here in the EU. Otherwise, it is still much cheaper for many companies to buy new material on the market instead of establishing closed scrap cycles. And most scrap metal is also already mixed, which reduces its value to as low as one-tenth. For example, creating tax incentives for separate scrap cycles at an early stage would do much more than simply collecting coffee capsules or foil wrappers, which we as consumers produce. That isn't to say we shouldn't be concerned with them. But compared with industrial waste, it is a matter of decimal places.
What research needs do you see for sustainable metal materials?
At the moment, many different alloys are used in many products because they all have some special property. Initially, we look at which elements occur in alloys when a certain amount of scrap is used. For example, you can already find the extremely expensive neodymium from the electric motors of window winders and the like in the recycled aluminium used in cars today, because they are not separated before they are melted down. We thus find over 20 elements in alloys that we hadn't had before. We are investigating how such impurities change the properties of alloys. We hope to find out how impure a material can be and still fulfil its purpose. If we can scientifically prove that a material can be less pure, we can increase the scrap content and thus massively reduce the CO2 footprint.
Can scrap from one industry be recycled in another?
We are looking into such possibilities. We systematically look at where a lot of material is consumed and whether we can make alloys that can tolerate more impurities. For example, we have found that the construction industry is using increasingly more aluminium alloys related to the aluminium-manganese alloy of beverage cans for roof tiles, cladding, load-bearing elements, lifts, and the like. In the case of cans, the proportion of recycling and thus the amount of impurities is already quite high, because the alloy is relatively good-natured and does not have to be able to do much. We now want to investigate whether they can scrap, which many countries produce in larger quantities than in Germany, can also be used for construction purposes.