Ingo Cremer, President of the EPMA, reviewed current production trends in the various sectors of the European PM industry at the PM2012 Powder Metallurgy World Congress in Yokohama, Japan, October 14-18 2012. He began with the impact of the ongoing turbulence in the Eurozone countries and how this is affecting consumer demand, particularly for automobiles. The automotive sector and its suppliers performed better than expected in 2011, but this was in the main due to strong exports of luxury cars, he said.
Cremer stated that despite the threat of price-competition from low-cost economies, Europe’s PM industry still had a bright future. However, he warned against the relocation of PM manufacturing facilities outside of the European continent. ‘We must not make the mistake to give all our production capacities to low cost countries, because once we no longer have our production capacity, we have no chance to earn with industrial applications.’
PM operates in a strongly competitive market, said Cremer, with profit margins positive but under pressure, particularly from the automotive sector – the PM industry’s biggest customer. Nevertheless, PM has managed to increase the average weight of PM parts in vehicles by 37% over the past 10 years to 10 kg. Fuel price increases and new technologies such as DSG and VVT will help PM to find additional applications in cars, he said.
Data presented by Cremer indicated that all sectors of PM in Europe have enjoyed solid growth since the low point of 2009, with European iron powder shipments for PM applications showing modest growth in 2011 compared with 2010. Iron powder shipments in the first half of 2012 have shown similar trends to 2011.
The European MIM industry has shown strong growth in recent years, as has the European HIP sector, with the production of HIPed PM high speed steels and tool steels exceeding 6,000 metric tonnes in 2011. Hard materials production in Europe has almost regained its pre-financial crisis level reaching an estimated production level of around 22,000 tonnes in 2011.
Cremer reported on the efforts by the EPMA to lobby the European Commission over an Energy Tax Directive (ETD) COM (201) 169 which the EPMA believes will negatively impact the competitiveness of Europe’s PM industry. He said that a Position Paper by the EPMA has been circulated to the European President and The European Commission in order to raise awareness of the negative impact of the ETD on the PM sector.