Nonferrous Die-Castings, Except Aluminum

SIC 3364

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This classification is composed of establishments primarily involved in manufacturing die-castings from nonferrous metals and alloys other than aluminum. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing die-castings from aluminum and aluminum alloys are classified in SIC 3363: Aluminum Die-Castings.

Industry Snapshot

After 2001 the U.S. Census Bureau combined the category of nonferrous die-casting (except aluminum) with two others: copper foundries (except die-castings) and other nonferrous foundries (except die-casting). In this broader category, called "Foundries, Not Aluminum," industry-wide employment totaled 15,386 in 2009, which was down from 22,154 in 2005. Overall shipments for the newly created category exceeded $3.7 billion in 2005 but had declined to $3.3 billion by 2009.

During the last years of the first decade of the 2000s, the metalcasting industry attempted to remain competitive as production increasingly was moved offshore. Although China remained a major threat to the U.S. castings industry, a weakened economy caused volatile market conditions resulting in foundry closures. As conditions worsened so did shipment values. By 2010, however, recovery of both the economy and the U.S. die-casting industry were on the horizon. By then, according to the North American Die Casting Association (NADCA), the automotive industry remained the largest market for die-casters, claiming about 44 percent of the market.

Background and Development

Die-casting techniques, which rely on injecting molten metal into steel molds under pressure, were developed around the beginning of the twentieth century. Industrial development and needs generated by World War I and World War II created increased use of die-castings. In 1946, shipments of die-castings reached nearly 460 million pounds. Of this total, 376 million pounds represented die-castings fabricated with zinc.

Zinc remained the top metal for die-casters until it was surpassed by aluminum in 1967. The 1970s and 1980s brought additional challenges to zinc die-casters when automakers began replacing zinc components with plastic products, and domestic manufacturers faced increased challenges from imported products. Improvements in the ability to cast zinc parts using thin-wall technology helped zinc recapture some of its lost market share.

Innovations in the 1980s allowed fabricators to purify magnesium of contaminants associated with poor corrosion resistance. Refined magnesium possesses qualities that make it competitive with aluminum, steel, plastics, and other traditional materials. These improvements resulted in dramatic increases in magnesium die-casting shipments. In 1983, for example, magnesium shipments totaled 4,700 tons. By 1990, the figure had increased to 15,500 tons, although magnesium shipments dropped slightly in 1991 to 15,000 tons.

Another die-casting metal receiving increased interest during the late twentieth century was titanium. Titanium has low weight, high strength, and good corrosion resistance. Although it had been used since the early 1950s in aerospace applications, widespread acceptance failed to develop because of the high costs associated with production. Innovations during the 1980s, however, opened the door to expanded use. According to the NADCA, technological improvements would continue to increase demand for die-cast products. In addition to refinements in zinc production, the ability to work with magnesium held promise.

Magnesium shipments were expected to continue grow substantially throughout the early twenty-first century. The largest user of magnesium die-castings is the automotive industry. Magnesium parts for cars include various housings, brackets, and steering column components. Other significant users of magnesium castings included manufacturers of chain saws, fishing rods, and power tools.

Although the casting industry struggled during the economic recession in the late years of the first decade of the 2000s, with a goal of doing whatever they might need to do to remain in business when conditions improved, some favorable news was expected to bolster demand. In a survey conducted by The Aluminum Association in 2009, 78 percent of U.S. die-casters reported die-casting components were once again being manufacturing domestically instead of being imported from foreign competitors. One reason for ending outsourcing was the volatile prices for metals in China, as well as quality issues and concerns about increasing shipping costs.

Current Conditions

According to Dun & Bradstreet, there were an estimated 229 manufacturers of die-casts from nonferrous metals and alloys other than aluminum in 2010. Together these firms generated $526.5 million in sales and employed 7,747 workers. Based on sales, California, Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio were the top performers.

Nonferrous die-castings except aluminum accounted for 35 percent in market share, or $182.1 million in sales, for 2010. Zinc and zinc-base alloy die-castings were the second-largest category, capturing 45 percent of the market and $238.6 million in revenues. Manufacturers of brass and bronze die-castings held 14 percent of market share with $71.9 million in sales, and magnesium and magnesium-base alloy die-castings, which brought in 15.3 percent of industry incomes, outperformed lead die-castings, which contributed $10.5 million to the total.

Industry Leaders

Gibbs Die Casting Corp., based in Henderson, Kentucky, and a subsidiary of Koch Enterprises, reported $210.2 million in 2010 revenue and 1,229 employees. Lexington Precision Corp. of New York posted $73 million in revenue in 2010. The company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy that year when it was acquired by Aurora Capital. Dynacast Inc. was another important player in the industry. With North American headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, the company operated 20 die-casting plants in 16 countries worldwide in 2011.

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