Articles in Category: Product Developments

In a graphic example of how ripples from the stone that was the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal are spreading across the rest of the automotive pond.

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Johnson Matthey’s share price dropped further during September when the scandal first brook, but has since recovered as it dawned on investors that the result of VW’s emissions scandal is likely to be tougher controls… even if there is a marked swing to gasoline engines.

JM-share price

Source: Thomson Reuters

Johnson Matthey was already in trouble due to a combination of falling platinum group metals prices and slowing demand, notably in key automotive markets such as China, for jewelry and in the oil industry as investment has been cut back. Read more

As you do retail combat on the front lines on this Black Friday, remember that much of what you’re buying is made possible by rare metals, and the supply chains of the companies selling you everything from cars to cell phones are likely 10 or more links deep.

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A simple electronic toothbrush, for instance, requires circuit boards dotted with materials of tantalum in a capacitor that helps it store energy.

Thanks for the circuit board, tantalum! Source: Adobe Stock/Lionelpc

Thanks for the circuit board, tantalum! Source: Adobe Stock/Lionel pcn

It also requires a neodymium, dysprosium, boron and iron magnet to provide the power to spin its bristles and it needs batteries made from nickel and cadmium or lithium.

Smart Rare Metals

Buying that special someone a smartphone this year?

60% of smartphones are made from metals or ceramics. A mobile phone’s antenna requires titanium and boron. Its transmitter requires titanium and barium. Its condensers? Tantalum and strontium. The speaker and microphone require samarium and cobalt. This team of rare metals is held together by a beryliium connector and boosted by a gallium power amplifier.

Rare earth element phosphors make a phone’s screen brighter. The smarter phones get, the more metals they require. Smartphones contain more metals, in greater amount and often at higher grades than their predecessors, according to David Abraham, author of “The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age.

Screen Time

Notice the screen of your smartphone getting bigger? If you purchase anything with a screen this holiday season, you’re very likely buying indium powder as, when it’s combined with tin, it becomes a unique transparent conductor that sticks well to glass.

Abraham writes that smartphones require four to six times more gallium than a regular cell phone just a few years ago.

You could just skip the middleman and get your friends and relatives bulk tantalum or dysprosium, I suppose. This gift probably wouldn’t go over too well, unless they’re metal traders, but it could be a good investment. As rare metals become more, well, rare, the supply chains of smartphones and other electronics will be increasingly strained as we consume more and more technology and even our children’s toys become more interconnected.

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Rare metals are key to building our future of consumer technology, and there is likely no greater example than the rush to purchase new electronics every Black Friday.

This Thanksgiving Holiday, all of us here at MetalMiner would like to share what we’re thankful for this year.

(Mostly) Transparent Markets for the Metals You Buy

While it’s been a great year for buyers, with low commodity prices across the board, we are constantly reminded that prices are only as correct as the information behind them.

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This is the first full year for the new LBMA gold and silver prices. More open and transparent processes for precious metal prices can only help purchasers in the long run by giving them more information about what goes into the prices they are quoted. We are thankful for market transparency in all its forms.

Happy Thanksgiving from MetalMiner!

Happy Thanksgiving from everyone here at MetalMiner!

That’s why our own MetalMiner IndX is updated daily with over 600 price points from domestic and multiple international markets. We’re always happy to add more open and transparent price points. Read more

The London Metal Exchange (LME) today launched its first new contracts in more than five years. LME Aluminum Premiums, LME Steel Rebar and LME Steel Scrap, are the new contracts.

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“Today’s announcement highlights the LME’s new approach to market engagement,” said Garry Jones, CEO of the LME. “This has been an extremely customer-focused product launch, and we have collaborated with participants throughout the metals value chain to ensure we have created contracts that people want to trade.”

The new scrap and rebar contracts will be traded on LMEselect, allowing industry participants to reduce their risk exposure by hedging more steps in the steel production process. The contracts are cash-settled against physical Turkish scrap and rebar price indexes.

The new ferrous contracts will be supported by market-making programs to optimize market depth and tightness of spreads.

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With the physically settled aluminum premiums contract, participants can now hedge the regional all-in price to ensure the metal they receive is readily available in a non-queued LME warehouse at a convenient location

Last week, we here at the MetalMiner Week in Review told you about how BHP Billiton CEO Andrew Mackenzie immediately went to Brazil to, essentially, say “I’m sorry” about the Samarco iron ore mine disaster that has left 11 dead and more missing.

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BHP Chairman Jac Nasser has since doubled down and said the company has already committed $363 million to rebuild following the tragedy. The “deeply sorry” strategy shows that BHP is not only committed to rebuilding, but wants to make amends for the damage its failed dam has caused and wants to continue to be a part of iron ore mining in Brazil. Read more

Before we get into Alcoa Inc., Micromill, their partnership with Ford Motor Co., or aluminum lightweighting, first up — Acronym Roll-Call:

CAE: here. FEA: here. FEM: here. FLC: here. FLS: present.

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These niche acronyms, when they roll off the tongue of presenters and attendees, will contribute to the soothing sounds of an upcoming conference titled Modeling, Simulation and Crash Testing Of Automotive Lightweight Materials Congress, which bills itself as The Only OEM-Led Congress Encompassing Cost-Effective Modeling, Crash Simulation And Lifecycle Prediction For Lightweight Materials And Composites. (Whew.)

Computer-aided engineering (CAE), finite element analysis (FEA), finite element method (FEM) simulations, forming limit curves (FLCs), and forming limit surfaces (FLSs) are all elements of the stuff that lightweighting dreams are made of — and the first round of folks that the Dreamers-in-Chief begin with are (with all due respect) the R+D Nerds-in-Chief, several of whom will be attending and presenting at the January 2016 conference.

Two such engineering experts, Steven Sheng, formability engineer for General Motors, and Xinran Xiao, professor of Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University, recently gave interviews on what they expect to see on the lightweighting horizon.

hroephoto/Adobe Stock

Newer, stronger forms of aluminum should help vehicles perform better in crashes. hroephoto/Adobe Stock

While I don’t recommend reading both interviews in their entirety unless you’re deeply embedded in the R+D sector, the essential takeaways are that material fracture prediction and modeling and simulation will become more important than ever, which means CAE analysis will continue playing ever-larger roles in lightweighting. “To increase the use of composites in crash critical structures, we have to be able to predict the crashworthiness of the structure as we do for metal parts. Good material models, robust and accurate safety simulations are critical to vehicle lightweighting,” Xiao is quoted as saying. This, ultimately, will increase understanding of, say, aluminum’s performance under stress way before the first crash test.

Speaking of Aluminum…

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This week started with the horrible Samarco mine disaster in Brazil. Two mine dams burst and waste from tailings ponds created to service the iron ore mine flooded local villages and affected water supply within a 60-plus-mile area. The death toll has now reached eight people.

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My colleague, Stuart Burns, warned that the co-owners of the mine, BHP Billiton and Vale SA, could be in deeper water than anyone. Remember BP after the oil spill?

BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie hopped the first flight to Brazil to put as best a face as he can on the response. Yet the Brazilian government has already set its sights on Vale and BHP as the responsible parties and literal owners of the disaster.

Read more

“We are on the threshold of a major step change in aerospace propulsion,” said Nigel Whitehead, BAE Systems managing director according to the Financial Times after the British Aerospace company confirmed a £20.6 million ($13.5 million) investment in the jet engine research firm Reaction Engines.

Originally developed by an ex-Rolls Royce engineer, Alan Bond, and two partners, Reactions’ SABRE engine is said by the FT to have passed technical assessment by the US Air Force and the European Space Agency, and BAE’s stake will allow the firm to move forward to a ground-based demonstrator engine by 2020 by unlocking an additional £60 million ($39.38 million) of UK government grants plus the undoubted benefit of BAE’s aerospace expertise.


So what’s so special about the SABRE that justifies the “major step change in aerospace propulsion” claim?

Source: Reaction Engines

Source: Reaction Engines

SABRE is an acronym for Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine. Reaction claims the “air-breather” can achieve speeds of 2,500 mph, sufficient to reach low-earth orbit and hence launch satellites or to achieve passenger transport from London to Sydney in around 4 hours. Okay, that would be a major step change.

Read more

This is part two of a series on how 3D model-based design and materials quantity take-off enabled the restoration of Wrigley Field in Chicago. See part one if you missed it.

Steel Fabrication and Erection

The structural design of Wrigley Field’s bleachers maintains the historic nature of the ballpark and presents some unique challenges for fabrication and erection. The design’s connections, column sizes and thicknesses required a complex fabrication, welding and installation plan.

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Lenex Steel of Indianapolis developed a 3D model for the fabrication, which took between 16,000 and 17,000 man-hours to complete the project. It required three different production foundries to supply the volume.


The historic restoration of Wrigley Field’s bleachers meant structural steel with many difficult installation angles and a veritable collision maze of supports, piping and electrical fixtures. Image: Jeff Yoders

Most of the steel came from supplier Steel Dynamics, Inc., which shipped its rough beams and long products from its facility in Jeffersonville, Ind., directly to Lenex for fabrication or to the site. Read more

The battle lines are being drawn. On one side are ranged automotive giants Toyota, Honda and Hyundai pouring billions into hydrogen fuel cells (FCEV), on the other are new upstarts like Tesla and established automotive firms like Nissan committed to the Electric Vehicle (EV) market.

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A bit like the Sony Betamax versus the JVC VHS video cassette recording formats in the ’70s — or Sony and Blu-Ray vs. Toshiba and HD-DVD more recently — the outcome of this monumental tussle will have far reaching ramifications for the industry and the competition will drive innovation and automotive advancement to the benefit of us all.

Unlike Beta/VHS where competing technologies hit the market at more or less the same time, EV has a clear head start on FCEV but like the video cassette market it may be the eventual winner if it is due to the quality of the product as much as the longevity of the experience. With video cassettes, Beta was generally reckoned to offer a better picture quality, in part because it recorded at a higher tape speed, yet its eventual failure had more to do with the fact Beta 1 only lasted 60 minutes compared to VHS’s 120 minutes. That’s the reason Beta is still used today in television production long after it ceded the home video market to VHS. Read more