Article Series

Four challenges in aluminum high pressure die casting: Introduction

| Author / Editor: Johannes Messer / Isabell Page

One of the main drivers of the changes in the die casting industry is the automotive industry.
Gallery: 1 image
One of the main drivers of the changes in the die casting industry is the automotive industry. (Source: Pixabay / CC0)

This article series are dedicated to the changes and developments in the aluminum high pressure die casting industry: "Internationalization", "Product Portfolio", "Technologies" and "Employees".

For several years, the aluminum foundry industry has undergone a major transformation worldwide. Various events such as the economic crisis in 2009 have left their mark. However, one of the main drivers of change is to a large extent the automotive industry. With the emergence of new technologies such as electromobility, new demands are constantly being placed on foundries. As a result, winners and losers are emerging: some are breaking new ground and are therefore operating at full capacity. Others are unable to assess the situation, are uncertain and ultimately have to struggle with insolvencies. So the industry has come into the focus of financial and strategic investors. With these acquisitions, investors are quickly gaining access to the market.

The main reasons are:

  • Strong growth in the industry in the past and the future
  • Importance of the foundry industry for the automotive sector (perceived supplier at OEMs, know-how industry)
  • Straightforward purchase investments (mainly medium-sized companies)
  • Below-average profit margins lead to low purchase price with corresponding development potential. For example, the energy costs are currently in Germany twice as high as in the USA. The personnel costs/ gross profit is in die casting foundries higher than at other production processes.

As a result, major players like Martinrea Honsel, JL French Automotive Castings, Teksid S.p.A. or KSM Castings have changed owners. Carlos Vasto was recently appointed as the new CEO of GF Casting Solutions.

Tier 1 companies such as ZF Friedrichshafen, Magna International, Martinrea Honsel and others have thus found their way into the aluminum foundry market. New, partly large market participants (so far mainly medium-sized companies) have emerged. This has led to a major change in the entire aluminum foundry market.

Currently, far-reaching changes are to be expected again. The automotive industry, as the largest customer of the aluminum foundry industry, is facing a serious change. The demands for a drastic reduction of CO2 emissions are getting stronger. Weight reduction and e-mobility are identified as major levers. As a result, today's article portfolio of the aluminum foundry industry will change "revolutionary".

In order to manufacture lightweight components, the focus is on aluminum as a material, which has to prove itself against other light metals. In addition to high costs, high energy consumption also plays a major role. Another challenge will be the ongoing parallel production of new electric motors and conventional combustion engines, which will initially even lead to an increase in the number of components. The ultimate impact on the foundry industry is not yet fully apparent. First indications of the extent and significance of the expected changes are given by the automotive industry itself.

Only a few years ago, the automotive industry significantly reduced investment and thus capacity in the in-house aluminum foundries. However, due to the high demand for new products such as structural components, delivery bottlenecks may now arise at smaller foundries. In order to prevent this, OEMs are currently investing in their own foundries again. Audi builds e.g. a new die casting foundry for aluminum structural parts.

All in all, the aluminum foundry industry faces significant challenges:

  • Internationalization
  • Product portfolio
  • Technologies
  • Employees

The 4-part series of articles presents estimates, expectations and recommendations for the challenges described above in the individual contributions. As only foundries with short-term strategic answers to these major challenges will be successful in the long term, the series of articles also provides practical recommendations for action.

Preview Part 1

The first chapter deals with the internationalization and its changes in die casting. Read now from 30-01-2019 on how this affects booming new growth markets and how the big market players are seizing this opportunity to investing in India, China and Mexico.

This article was first published by Spotlightmetal.

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