Demand for aluminum-magnesium die castings from the appliance, consumer products and residential construction industries also has been very weak—and so has demand for wrought products by machinery and consumer products makers. Purchasing of parts designed for wind energy and other biofuel machinery applications have been nearly nonexistent this year. Also, the use of magnesium to make the aluminum alloys that make 1.5 million metric tons per year annually of beverage cans appears to have stagnated in the face of competition from plastics bottles.
Magnesium, as an oxide, also is used as a deoxidizing agent in the smelting of aluminum, titanium and other nonferrous metals; as refractory material in furnace linings for producing iron, steel and glass; as a desulphurization agent in steelmaking; as a raw material when making Portland cement in dry process plants; as an insulator in industrial cables, as a basic refractory in industrial cables and as a principal ingredient in construction materials used for fireproofing.
Patzer of the International Magnesium Association says that “the typical seasonal summer slowdown is being exacerbated by the lack of business from traditional, big-volume end users and materials competition from the aluminum industry.” The big debate, he says, is whether the bottom of the demand slide has occurred and, if it has, when the demand pickup will become apparent.
Driven by environmental programs across the consumer electronics industry, portable electronics product manufacturers are opting for light, yet tough, magnesium for everything from flash audio/video players to digital cameras, mobile phones, computer notebooks and radar detectors. Patzer says that “components that house and protect highly sensitive technology inside entertainment and communications devices must exhibit strength and durability and magnesium meets the design challenges of the consumer electronics becoming lighter, thinner, and more mobile.”
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