US steel companies are expected to do well this year, according to a report by Steel Times International's USA correspondent who talks about an 'American steel rennaissance' linked to the controversial practice of fracking. The American Midwest is said to be enjoying an economic boom as well as a rebound in construction spending – and it looks as if the steel industry as a whole is taking a head-on approach towards the issue of aluminium versus steel in the automotive industry.
US steel companies are aggressively courting and forming partnerships with automobile companies in response to attempts by the aluminium industry to project the light metal as a substitute for steel in automobile manufacturing.
In this month's Q&A interview (with Oerlikon's Uwe Zollig) Mr Zollig says 'we will continue to see steel in cars for some time' even if he does believe that the amount of steel used per car will decrease as manufacturers favour aluminium and composite materials.
Myra Pinkham, in her article on steel markets, argues that the success of the US domestic steel market depends upon infrastructure development. She reports, however, that US infrastructure investment as a percentage of GDP is at its lowest level in more than 20 years.
In an article about steel service centres in the USA, Pinkham argues that they are offering more value-added services instead of being solely dependent upon their inventories and are managing potential risks and broadening the scope of the products they offer.
A report from Latin America highlights 'a good macro-economic performance' in Columbia where 'things are looking good' as a 'new wave of investment' enables domestic producers to reduce market share currently dominated by imports.
There are some interesting technical features in this issue starting with an article by ThyssenKrupp's head of coke oven development, Ralf Neuwirth. Mr Neuwirth argues that high capacity coke ovens offer many advantages including reduced emissions, less coal towers, less quench systems and less oven machines, not forgetting lower personnel requirements and an extended operational lifetime.
Another article on ironmaking – this time from Hatch – examines how steelmakers can extend the campaign life of their blast furnace. Hatch argues that the opportunity of extend blast furnace life and increase output at low cost led to the widespread introduction of copper staves. Unfortunately, their reliability is questionable following premature failures caused by abrasive wear of the hot face occuring during the first 10 years of operation. The solution might lie in the development, by Hatch, of an online accretion measurement tool.
Where stainless steels are concerned, Sandvik Materials Technology's Eduardo Perea, the company's global technical and marketing manager, argues that research and development delivers increased corrosion resistance.
Lastly, the issue carries an abstract of an article by Oerlikon that looks into the explosion risk of vacuum degassing. The full article can be found on the Steel Times International website.
In this month's Q&A we hear from Uwe Zollig, head of global market segment process at Oerlikon, who argues that automotive steel will remain competitive in the face of stiff competition from aluminium and composite materials.
Last but not least, Harry Hodson writes about Victorian ironware for this month's History page.