There are lots of mixed messages at the moment about what the industry will do over the next year,” he admits. “Some foresee a further 10% reduction in general industry, while other reports, for example in automotive, are more positive. PM orders are still fairly good, but there is still a high degree of uncertainty.”
According to Wroe, the automotive industry has benefitted from the scrappage scheme and this has seen a growth in orders for PM parts, particular in the second half of 2009. But there is still a lot of spare capacity out there so suppliers of large capital equipment may continue to suffer from a lack of orders and not really recover until 2011,” he says.
“In general, I think that the US will have a more positive 2010 than Europe – especially relative to the battering the US PM Industry took over the last few years,” he says, adding that China will be a big influence over Western economies in 2010. “A lot of things depend on what happens in the Far East; particularly China. It’s clear that China will continue its significant growth over the next year, and equipment suppliers from Europe and the US may get a boost from demand from the Chinese.” It may, however, be a different story for construction. “In the construction industry, things appear to have flattened out at a low level.
With regards to new technology, Wroe thinks that the conventional PM industry will tend to stick with existing applications, rather than risk investing in new technology. However, “other PM processes will find new opportunities, such as metal injection moulding (MIM) in the biomedical sector, and hot isostatic pressing for the oil and aerospace industries.”
“There is growing interest in PM parts for environmentally friendly applications, such as hybrid cars and wind turbines, but government funding has contributed a great deal to their rapid growth. So growth in this area will depend to some extent on continuing government interest.”