By Ron Williams and Richard Hirst, The Blayson Group Ltd
The European investment casting industry sales are estimated to have increased by four per cent in 2016 to reach a total value of US$3.2billion. This maintains Europe’s contribution to the worldwide investment casting industry at nearly a quarter of total world sales.
Last year witnessed improvements in industrial gas turbine sales supported by a strong performance in aerospace and the automotive sector.
Market shares in European investment casting remain unchanged with the UK continuing to lead with 50 per sent of sales. France and Germany are the next largest individual contributors with the combined sales for all other European countries at 19 per cent of the total.
European sector trend
The importance of the high added value sector to European investment casting is clearly shown in fig.1 with the growth rate of recent years being maintained.
The automotive sector performed well in 2016 across all countries. Commercial casting sales have maintained the level of recent years.
Casting sales in the aerospace sector were maintained in 2016 with the commercial aircraft industry remaining the major market. Airbus achieved its ten thousandth delivery with the handover of an A350-900 jetliner to Singapore Airlines. This major achievement follows more than four decades of continuous growth.
The Rolls Royce order book remains strong and the company has cut the time it takes to manufacture the fan and turbine discs used in its engines by 50 per cent, by combining production processes and introducing robotics and faster inspection processes.
In terms of industry prospects, with the backlog of commercial aircraft orders still at record levels the expectation is that high casting production levels will be maintained. Rolls Royce is striving to double its output of wide-body plane engines by 2019 to meet orders and meanwhile is designing two new jet engines – the Advance and UltraFan.
Industrial gas turbines (IGT)
IGT casting sales showed a significant improvement in 2016 with a five per cent increase in sales. This follows an extended period of stagnation since 2009. Importantly, the improvement is indicated in all foundries supplying the sector.
The growth seen in 2016 is expected to be maintained through the coming year.
Automotive casting sales increased by three per cent in 2015 with improvements of this level seen in all countries. The business market performed extremely well with buying decisions increasingly based on quality, value for money and safety accounting for strong demand for vehicles from the UK and Germany, whilst high demand for rental cars benefitted the automotive suppliers in France, Spain and Italy.
With a global demand for quality vehicles, the European automotive industry will certainly benefit from improved exports on top of domestic sales. Production of currently strong product areas, for example small SUVs and crossovers, are expected to increase and investment and development of new automobile technologies will continue.
Commercial casting sales continued to struggle with those supplying the oil industry adversely affected. Casting sales remain very competitive and it is anticipated that current growth levels will be maintained.
No changes in market conditions in the medical sector are expected.
European investment casting performed well in 2016 with the benefit of the long awaited improvement in IGT sales, continued strong aerospace demand and with Europe-wide improvement in automotive production.
Despite business conditions remaining difficult to predict, especially as a result of the Brexit vote, it is expected that European investment casting will see a continuation of the positive performance.
For copies of the figures that are referred to in this article see the full printed version in the April 2017 issue of Foundry Trade Journal.