Asia Gulps Metalworking Fluids

Asia accounted for 40 percent of the globe's U.S. $8.8 billion in demand for metalworking fluids in 2013, Frost & Sullivan concluded in a recent analysis.

The international market research firm estimated the worlds metalworking fluids market will reach sales revenue of $12.1 billion in 2020, up 37.5 percent from 2013, driven by Asia and other booming end-user markets.

The findings were in the firms recently published, Analysis of the Global Metalworking Fluids Market.

As industrial production increases in China, India, Russia, Turkey, Brazil and Southeast Asian countries, regulations on waste water treatment and disposal are compelling end users to optimize the use of mineral oil-based metalworking fluids, Frost & Sullivan said in a news release. This is expected to increase the adoption of semi-synthetic and synthetic metalworking fluids that offer good balance between cost and performance. In turn, the metalworking additives segment is expected to grow rapidly, the research firm concludes, as synthetic-based metalworking fluids require a stronger additive package.

The burgeoning Asian automotive industry and niche applications such as medical machining are expected to boost metalworking fluids sales volumes. Frost & Sullivan Chemicals, Materials and Food Research Associate Srinivas Venkatesan explained to Lube Report Asia that the medical machining markets customers demand high-performance fluids that are also easy to clean and must be extremely resistant to bacterial and fungal outbreak. Medical machining is of utmost interest to metalworking fluids formulators, Venkatesan said.

He noted that the replacement of metals with plastics and composites in some applications will to an extent quench the demand for metalworking fluids. For example, the automotive and aerospace industries are using plastics and composites more to achieve lighter weights.

The total percentage of plastics and composites in automotive and aerospace industries is on the rise, restraining the growth of the metalworking fluids market, Venkatesan said. For instance, the composite percentage of airframe weight in the Airbus A340 was 10 percent and in the Boeing 777 was 12 percent. In new models such as the Airbus A350XWB, the composite percentage of air frame weight is 53 percent, while in the Boeing 787 it is approximately 50 percent.

Similarly, plastics make up 50 percent of the volume of new cars but only 10 percent of the weight, making cars lighter and more fuel efficient, and resulting in lower carbon dioxide emissions. Hence, car manufacturers are on the lookout for ways to replace metals and alloys with plastics and composites," he said. "This impedes the growth of the metalworking fluids market."

Another factor crimping growth in metalworking fluids demand is the development of technologies such as minimum quantity lubrication, high pressure machining and near-net-shape casting, which could replace conventional metalworking processes.

Venkatesan explained that near-net-shape manufacturing is a process in which the final shape is obtained through the initial production, thereby eliminating the need for metalworking and surface finishing. Near-net-shape casting techniques include investment casting, spray forming, laser forming and vacuum forming.