The Aluminium Federation of South Africa (Afsa) believes that potential for growth of the foundry industry currently lies in the automotive sector, as this is the largest market for aluminium castings.
“Legislation worldwide is driving automotive companies and original-equipment manufacturers to consider fuel efficiency and reduced carbon emissions in the manufacturing of vehicles. One of the ways in which the manufacturers can accomplish this is by making vehicles lighter. “This has resulted in a very steady and rapid growth of the use of aluminium in motor vehicles,” says Afsa executive director Mark Krieg.
He contends that many of the engine castings, as well as the gear box housing, suspension components and wheels, are all already made of aluminium, with the body of certain cars also now produced in aluminium.
Many castings used by the automotive industry are imported. Krieg points out that the aluminium foundry sector is producing about 5 000 t/y of components. The raw material for those foundries is typically supplied by secondary smelters.
The scrap is collected, sorted, melted and then alloyed by the secondary smelter to suit customer requirements.
About 60% of the 5 000 t is supplied to the automotive sector. Primary aluminium is used to produce aluminium alloy wheels in South Africa.
He notes that about 91% of the total aluminium castings in the country is produced for the automotive sector, which is doing very well in South Africa. Even though the industry might not be growing as rapidly as expected, there is potential to expand the components manufactured, such as wheels, he adds.
Krieg mentions that there has been a significant reduction in the volumes of orders over the past ten years and many foundries have closed, with the closing of about 42 aluminium foundries recorded over this period.
He points out that this is the result of increased global competition in the industry and the upsurge in the number of imported castings.
“We are producing cylinder heads and cam covers in South Africa. Wheels are safety-critical items for the sector and they are ordered with confidence by the automotive sector in the country,” says Krieg.
“Afsa provides technical support for South African aluminium foundries on materials and processes to supplement the great training being undertaken by the South African Institute of Foundrymen. “The South African aluminium sector is one of the industrial pillars of the economy, as is the foundry industry within the metals manufacturing process,” Krieg concludes.