Future Developments of Lightweight Metals
Lightweight Metals are important factors for the automotive industry, aerospace and leisure industry. This article describes the future areas of application for non-ferrous metals and shows the advantages of their use.
According to this 2016 report from market research company Technavio, the global non-ferrous market is due to post a compound annual growth rate of 5% up to 2020, mainly because of the increasing demand for galvanised steel. Not only that, a report from KPMG has pointed out the healthy growth in the last five years of India’s non-ferrous and lightweight metal industry. There are many reasons for this, not least the developments of new areas of potential for the use of these metals, specifically in the automotive, defence, and leisure industries.
Due to the increasing preference for hybrid and electric vehicles, there is great potential for the lightweight metal industry in manufacturing for this type of car. Aluminium is so light that it helps to reduce fuel consumption, which in turn reduces CO2 emissions. As an excellent by-product, almost 90% of the aluminium used in the construction of a car can be recycled. It is infinitely recyclable so it can be reused without any degradation in performance. This ultimately means there is less demand for raw materials, further substantiating its environmental credentials.
The Indian Government particularly are keen on pushing this type of development further as they are concerned about the level of fuel required for the transport requirements within India. Who knows if their target of 7 million hybrid and electric cars by 2020 is achievable, but anything near that figure would be a big boon to the non-ferrous market regardless.
The Defence and Aerospace Industry
Aluminium again is the lightweight metal of choice for the defence industry because of its lightness, but also because of its additional abilities to cope with vibration, radiation and extremes of temperature. It is used extensively in aircraft and satellites, and also missiles, tanks, and warships.
While defence plans are necessarily kept undercover, it is clear that there are emerging applications that will continue to need non-ferrous metals such as aluminium for their continued success. Innovation to use it in alternative ways may be required, but it seems that the inclusion of this metal in these sectors will not be stopping any time soon. The Indian Government is also keen to see its companies form joint ventures with other overseas businesses, particularly in the non-ferrous construction division, to help with the advanced manufacturing that these new applications will need.
Obviously, the benefits of galvanisation have also been noted in this industry, leading to the report mentioned earlier predicting its growth. This will of course bring about an increase in the demand for zinc, as the protection against corrosion and damage that galvanisation brings will be of use in many applications.
The Leisure Industry
Road cycling as a leisure pursuit seems to be taking the world by storm, and everyone wants the lightest bike they can find. The lightweight aluminium used to be used in the 1990s as a replacement for the heavy steel frames, but it was usurped rather quickly by carbon fibre. Aluminium alloy was still used for cheaper bikes, but now the tide has definitely turned, and the top-of-the-range manufacturers like Cannondale are realising that aluminium has as many benefits as carbon fibre but can be produced more cheaply.
Carbon fibre bicycles tend to be matched with poorer quality components to make the overall price acceptable for the majority of consumers, and this reduces the overall performance. With an aluminium frame, the components can be of a greater standard while still keeping the overall price low, meaning the ride quality and performance are superior.
With all these new potential developments, the future looks very bright for lightweight metal manufacturing. Whether it is for the leisure, or the automotive industry, there seems to be no end to the new technological advances and uses for non-ferrous lightweight metals.