Nonferrous Forgings

SIC 3463

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

The forging industry as a whole, which includes SIC 3462: Iron and Steel Forgings, is characterized by its forging processes rather than its end products. Because many companies forge many types of metals, including both ferrous and nonferrous, industry information for this industry classification and SIC 3462: Iron and Steel Forgings are often reported together. The Forging Industry Association, for example, does not distinguish between the two SICs, presenting information on sales for the entire industry. Therefore, this entry will focus on the unique characteristics of the nonferrous forgings industry, and general information on forging can be found in the essay on SIC 3462: Iron and Steel Forgings.

Aluminum is the metal most often forged in this industry classification. Aluminum and its alloys can be forged into many different shapes and sizes. The metal is unique because it can be heated to the same temperature as the dies that will form it. The hardness of the dies is also lower than dies used for forging steel. The most common lubricant for forging aluminum is a graphite-water solution, with soap, to help the flow of the metal. Aluminum also can be forged into precision parts that need no further machining for use. Gravity or drop hammers are used for open die forgings, mechanical presses for closed die forgings, and hydraulic presses for complex pieces.

Other nonferrous forgings are made from magnesium and its alloys, whose coarse grains require that the metal be forged slowly in hydraulic presses; copper and its alloys, including brass and bronze; and titanium and its alloys, which are very sensitive to temperature changes but are extremely strong and resistant to corrosion.

Because titanium is expensive and must be handled quickly and expertly to avoid cracking when the parts are transferred between heat sources, a new remote control technology came into use in the early 2000s. At industry leader Wyman-Gordon's plant, radio remote controllers made it possible for oven doors to open and close more efficiently. This new technology quickly became essential, because titanium forgings were used in Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike Fighter.

The number of companies primarily engaged in manufacturing nonferrous forgings was only one-fifth the number of companies engaged in forging iron and steel. In the 1990s, the nonferrous forging industry continued to be a small part of the total forging industry. In a 1993 census taken by Forging, 40 of 386 plants across the United States and Canada concentrated their efforts on forging aluminum, while 13 facilities concentrated on titanium and 12 on copper-base alloys. The forging of nonferrous metals was not limited to these companies, however; the total number of plants that engaged in nonferrous metal forging to some degree was significantly higher. When asked to provide all the types of metals a company forged, the number of plants that indicated at least a modicum of aluminum forging was 57 percent, while those engaged in titanium forging reached about 20 percent, and about 9 percent reported forging copper-base alloys.

In the early 2010s, Houston-based Wyman-Gordon Company, a subsidiary of Precision Castparts Corp., led the industry with approximately $730 million in annual sales and 2,576 employees in 13 plants worldwide. Weber Metals Inc., based in Paramount, California, and a unit of Germany-based metals fabricating company Otto Fuchs, had $135 million in annual sales and more than 300 employees. Jet Engineering Inc. of Lansing, Michigan, rounded out the top three with about $44 million in annual sales and 341 employees.

Compared with other manufacturing establishments, the nonferrous forging industry is labor-intensive. The industry employs almost twice as many workers per company as other manufacturers, with 80 workers per establishment on average as opposed to 49.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 127,515 workers received an annual payroll of $5.65 billion in the forging and stamping industry in 2008. About 75 percent of employees were production workers earning an average of $17.79 an hour. Total value of shipments in the industry equaled $33.3 billion in 2008. Employment for the forging and stamping industry as a whole was expected to decrease by about 2.4 percent annually between 2008 and 2018, reaching 84,900 jobs by 2018. Output, on the other hand, was expected to increase slightly--less than a half percent per year--during the same time period.

Copper and brass were expected to remain in demand into the 2010s, as well as titanium. Aluminum also was expected to remain on top. Unlike the plight of other manufacturing industries, aluminum metalcasters did not have to contend with increasing foreign competition. According to The Aluminum Association, the U.S. aluminum industry produced $40 billion worth of products in the late 2000s. The automotive industry was the largest market for aluminum, accounting for almost 6 billion pounds of aluminum shipments in 2006. Other important markets were packaging and building and construction. Increased understanding of how aluminum could be formed and bonded was one of the industry's technology challenges, and the cost of materials, particularly the fluctuations, also was a challenge. Looking ahead, the forging industry was concentrating on how further research could effect both reduction of manufacturing costs and increase in industry output. Other important issues related to recycling and pollution control, international trade factors, and related government legislation.

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