Articles in Category: Product Developments
Source: Reuters/Energy Information Administration.

Source: Reuters/JKempEnergy/U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Consumption of natural gas by U.S. energy providers/utilities has steadily increased for the last decade.

The Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), today released statements about the release of the draft Technical Assessment Report (TAR) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation and California’s Air Resources Board.

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The report is the first step in the mid-term evaluation of fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions regulations and it examines a wide range of technology factors relevant to the 2022-2025 automotive model year standards.

Hybrid Car

Can a 54.5-miles-per-gallon average for all cars on the road be reached by 2025? Source: Adobe Stock/6th Gear.

The main question the report was created to address is should federal authorities adjust miles-per-gallon calculations in order to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets for the 2022-2025 model years. The stated goal by the Obama administration is to cut carbon emissions radically with rules that tighten to a nominal 54.5 mile-per-gallon average by 2025. Read more

Alcoa, Inc., recently opened a state-of-the-art, 3D printing metal powder production facility in its Pittsburgh area Alcoa Technology Center.

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The lightweight metals center will produce proprietary titanium, nickel and aluminum powders optimized for 3D printed aerospace parts. Alcoa has invested in a range of technologies to further develop additive manufacturing processes, product design and qualification.

Alcoa Technology Center

The Alcoa Technology Center near Pittsburgh has been expanded to accommodate new research into 3D printing technology. Source: Alcoa

“Alcoa is forging a leadership path in additive manufacturing with a sharp focus on the critical input material—metal powders,” said Alcoa Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Klaus Kleinfeld. “We are combining our expertise in metallurgy, manufacturing, design and product qualification to push beyond the possibilities of today’s 3D printing technologies for aerospace and other growth markets.”

Arconic Will Inherit 3D Printing Research

The facility will form part of the spin-off, value-added metals company Arconic following separation from Alcoa’s traditional commodity business in the second half of 2016. The plant is part of a $60 million investment in 3D printing materials and processes that builds on the Alcoa’ 3D printing capabilities in California, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas. Read more

We’ve previously written about how the U.S. government now pays more than a penny for the zinc required to make one penny, so when we saw this, it was a natural follow-up.

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In a letter this week to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and U.S. Mint Principal Deputy Director Rhett Jeppson, Institute of Scrap Recycling industries President Robin Wiener requested that the Mint reconsider its blanket moratorium on the repurchase of mutilated coins. ISRI requested an opportunity to meet with the appropriate representatives of the Mint and the Treasury to discuss this matter in further detail, too.

"Men, the real money is in selling zinc to the Mint to make nickels and pennies." Source: Adobe Stock/Bonzodog.

“Men, the real money is in selling zinc to the Mint to make nickels and pennies. not this smelting stuff. ” Source: Adobe Stock/Bonzodog.

Mutilated coins, such as the ones between the seat cushions of your old car that you’ve taken to get scrapped or even the pennies you placed on train tracks as a kid, could be a real boon to scrap yard recycler/operators. As scrap, they’re already cheaper than that more-than-penny-zinc the Mint buys to make new pennies and nickels. Read more

A recent article in Engineering News-Record, examined new trends in building materials. One of them was new uses for cross-laminated timber combined with metals.

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“For us, right now, the real exciting stuff is in the mixing of materials,” Charlie Carter, American Institute of Steel Construction vice president and chief structural engineer, told ENR. “Steel has always done that, of course. A big innovation in mixing materials that I see coming is the wood industry pushing cross-laminated timber.”

Steel Moment Resisting Frame with CLT infill wall. Illustration courtesy of Earthquake Spectra.

Steel Moment Resisting Frame with CLT infill wall. Illustration courtesy of Earthquake Spectra.

Putting wooden CLT panels into a steel moment resisting frame, then putting them both on a concrete topping, is becoming  very competitive with a typical flat-plate concrete standard floor, according to ENR.

The hybrid system combines ductile behavior of the steel moment frame with lighter and stiffer CLT panels. Like many recent innovations in building materials, hybrid  CLT/SMRF systems were driven by green building codes.

In major Canadian cities, to meet urban housing demand using renewable materials, tall wood-based buildings are increasingly considered. In 2009, the British Columbia Building Code was amended to increase light wood-frame buildings heights from four to six stories.

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This article in the journal Earthquake Spectra further explains how the CLT/SMRF system can satisfy the seismic compliance requirements of building codes while still qualifying as a sustainable building material.

Alcoa, Inc. revealed a new name, Arconic, for its value-added business unit in a recent regulatory filing and Iranian oil exports are decreasing but still adding more supply to global markets.

Alcoa Reveals Spinoff Details, Names Value-Added Business ‘Arconic’

Alcoa, Inc. said on Wednesday it will spin off its traditional aluminum smelting business as part of its planned company split and the renamed company will serve the aerospace and transportation industries.

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The company to be spun off will be named Alcoa, Corp. The value-added business unit will take on the name Arconic, Inc., according to a recent regulatory filing. It will make engineered products for growth markets such as automotive and aerospace. Alcoa revealed its plans in a regulatory filing.

Iranian Oil Exports Fall From June High, Still Adding Supply to Markets

Iran’s oil exports in July will fall June levels as the country battles Saudi Arabia and Iraq for market share, but the Islamic Republic’s output is still about 70% higher than a year ago, a source with knowledge of the country’s crude oil lifting plans told Reuters Africa.

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Exports will be about 2.14 million barrels per day in July, down from about 2.31 million bpd in June, but still the highest since January 2012, the source said.

They say there is nothing like competition to spur innovation and improve efficiency but the same could be said of adversity. Volkswagen is a case in point.

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After the biggest corporate scandal of the decade, VW finds itself in an invidious position. Last year it posted a $1.82 billion (€1.6 billion) net loss, its worst ever result in 78 years, as it recorded $18.3 billion (€16.2 billion) of charges to cover the cost of fixing diesel cars caught up in the emissions reporting affair.

Share Prices Down

Sales held up remarkably well when you consider the betrayal of trust the firm’s actions invited, but the share price remains 28% below its pre-scandal level after recovering from an initial 40% fall. Nevertheless, VW’s share of its home European market have fallen to a 10-year low and although sales rose slightly in May they rose more slowly than the 10 other top-selling marques across Europe according to an Financial Times article. From 12.9% market share in 2013, VW has fallen to 11.1% in May and spurred the board into action.

2013vwbeetletdi_565

Can VW turn its fortunes around? Perhaps with Electric Beetles? Source: VW

VW has announced a number of targets. First, an ambitious move into electric vehicles, saying the company will introduce 30 electric models by 2025 with annual sales of between 2 and 3 million units. To achieve this, VW is opening up the doors for collaboration with external parties, planning to spend $11.2 billion (€10 billion) on new technologies, acquisitions and venture capital investments. Read more

Stockpiling of rare earths by China’s six largest producers has pushed up prices over the past two months.

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Following the completion of the first stage of a national inventory-filling effort in mid-April, China’s rare earths prices have seen increases almost across the board. This stockpiling comes as China prepares to finalize consolidation of its industry under six large state-owned firms — Chinalco, Northern Rare Earth, Xiamen Tungsten, China Minmetals, Southern Rare Earth and Guangdong Rare Earth — by the end of this month.

Rare-Earths_Chart_June-2016_FNL

It’s a time of both stockpiling and tightening in the People’s Republic, the world’s largest producer, as a nation, of the metals used in batteries, magnets and high-tech is trying to reform both how it mines and how it sells rare earths. As we previously reported, much of the expected consolidation in China was slowed in the first two quarters by the weak market and stimulus measures that gave producers new reasons to overproduce. Now, the Chinese industry is scrambling to consolidate and force the closure of smaller producers.

Tax Reform in China

After July 1, China will expand its reform of resource taxes across the board and base this tax on prices instead of quantity. Authorities believe that a price-based tax would reduce tax burdens on unprofitable resource sectors (such as rare earths) and boost taxes on the more profitable sectors. The expectation is that taxes will then follow the resource-cycle.

Our Rare Earths MMI was up 11% this month, but it was only a 2 point increase, belying how low the level that rare earths have traded in for the last year really is. The price boost can be attributed, almost entirely, to the aforementioned stockpiling.

China’s second quarter commercial stockpiling supposedly ended on May 31. The initiative helped boost prices, but that’s really just a temporary market effect ahead of the expected consolidation. In the long term, the market is still oversupplied and forcing out smaller producers in China really won’t have much of a practical effect.

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Companies such as Mitsubishi are also touting new methods they are researching for rare earth magnet and battery recycling, processes that would be a further threat to primary mining. We advise buyers to approach rare earths with caution as this is one market whose supply still exceeds considerable demand.

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U.S. Automotive sales for May came in at 17.45 million. Down from April but also down from 17.8 million a year earlier. In May 2015, vehicle sales were a record 17.47 million vehicles, according to Autodata Corp. There were two fewer sales days this year vs May 2015. Having one less weekend was also a factor in the drop.

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Some analysts are taking the drop as a sign that the historically strong growth that automotive sales have enjoyed since the end of the recession is over. For the full year, auto sales are still historically strong but General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Toyota reported sales that fell more than analysts had estimated, while Nissan matched predictions with a 1%. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles surprised forecasters with a small gain by making more sales to fleet customers.

End of Automotive Growth?

If the strong period of automotive sales is truly over, then that would have a huge impact on steelmakers, aluminum smelters and other metal producers who have relied on the automotive market to provide both strong sales and a home for higher-priced, value-added products since 2011. Auto sales leveling off could also factor into whether the Federal Reserve raises interest rates this summer, or even if the Fed considers two rate hikes in the next three months.

Automotive_Chart_June-2016_FNL

If the U.S. dollar strengthens and the unemployment rate continues to fall the Fed would be hard-pressed to forego rate hikes even if automotive sales level off. Bolstering the case that this is merely a sales blip thanks to two important lost days, our Automotive MMI still held its value, 76, from May and automotive metals such as hot-dipped galvanized still posted strong price increases over the last month.

Automotive Metals Demand

Demand for specialty automotive metals continues to outpace base metals and provide a boost to the bottom lines of the steelmakers that produce them. So much so that U.S. Steel and the International Trade Commission brought a convincing case, this month, that Chinese hackers stole the formula and production setup of high-strength automotive alloy dual-phase 980 to give to Chinese steelmakers such as Baosteel that are now offering the product.

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If U.S. consumer demand really is leveling off, we have not seen it in sales of automotive metals.

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No term has brought up more discussion in the pages of MetalMiner than Ford Motor Company‘s insistence that the F-150 pickup truck is made of “military grade” aluminum.

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On this Memorial Day, we thought we’d revisit whether military grade was actually a specification or a simple marketing ploy on Ford’s part. Since the aluminum-bodied F-150 was introduced in the 2015 model year, more information about its actual construction has been shared by Ford.

Individual dealers are now touting the strength and research that went into the cab and other body parts of the F-150. “Military grade” is still sprinkled throughout the the video, but they also concede the alloy is also part magnesium and silicon. Ford also mentions that a large portion of the F-150 is, in fact, high-strength steel.

Ford has also admitted that the F-150 is primarily built from 6,000 series aluminum alloy, the strength of which is increased by heat-treating after it is formed.

The “military grade” refers to the specs that military applications of 6,000 series alloy is used in. In fairness to Ford, manufacturers and fabricators have been promoting their products as “military grade” for decades, and that’s really no different than Ford’s use of the term.

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We certainly wouldn’t recommend that anyone take an aluminum-bodied F-150 into a war zone to test just how “military grade” it really is, but, from a specification standpoint, Ford seems to have good reason to be proud of the rigor of the processes it uses to produce the F-150.