The global metal foam market size was valued at USD 82.0 million in 2016. Metal foams are gaining widespread acceptance in various end-use sectors, such as infrastructure & construction, automotive, aerospace and industrial. Emerging and existing industry participants are shifting their interest towards two key areas, exploring new areas of application and development of new production processes. The present market operates with many market players manufacturing specific ‘dies’ to expand foams directly into a designed shape.
Metal foams are still very expensive due to the complicated and energy-intensive manufacturing procedure. Mass production may lead to lower prices, but the possibility of price reduction in the future is still indefinite. Hence, the assortment of applications where particular properties of these composites are thoroughly exploited is indispensable. Since research on these materials cannot be done without a systematic understanding of the properties of foams and limitations of the processes, design engineers are reluctant to initiate a relevant search, thus creating a vicious circle.
U.S. metal foam market revenue by material, 2014 - 2025 (USD Thousand)
Metal foams have not yet been explored thoroughly, and there’s a lot more room for market participants to discover its potential further. Some drawbacks witnessed in the industry include lack of understanding of basic concepts of metal frothing & product properties, inability to make composites of a consistent quality with pre-defined parameters, flaws in the physical properties of the product, and a communication breach between research personnel and design engineers.
Research initiatives carried out at North Carolina State University have resulted in the development of novel lightweight composites which prove to be more efficient at insulating against high heat, in relation with conventional base metals and alloys, such as steel. Such a product can prove beneficial for the storage and transportation of hazardous chemicals, nuclear material, explosives and other heat-sensitive products, along with space exploration.
Other researchers have also traced that foamed product entirely made from stainless steel observe nearly eighty percent less expansion than actual stainless steel at 200° Celsius, and the differential increases at further high temperatures. As against conventional bulk metals and alloys such as stainless steel; composite metal foams expand at a relatively constant pace on being exposed to high heat.
Aluminum accounts for a major section in the automotive exterior materials industry owing to its properties such as well-developed repair and maintenance technology, recycling compatibility, reforming possibility in manufacturing and service lifecycle stages, assembling simplicity, broad hardening ability, high impact resistance, high formability, easy availability, low cost, versatility, etc.
Nickel foams offer several advantages such as conductivity, uniform pore structure and high porosity, thus enabling its major applications in electrodes of NiMH and NiCd batteries. They can also be used for traction and consumer rechargeable batteries. Nickel foams can be used in applications requiring a range of specifications including specific pore sizes, thickness, widths, and densities, as per individual end-user.
The low corrosion resistance of magnesium foams results in early degradation than the ideally required for tissue growth. For that matter, alloying elements such as aluminum, are often used to reduce the degradation rate of magnesium. Thus, magnesium-aluminum composites too are witnessing rapid commercialization.
Copper foam can be manufactured by methods such as the dissolution of carbonates in water, powder metallurgy process, etc. Properties of the copper composite are a combination of thermal conductivity of copper and the structural benefits of metal. Advantages offered by copper composite enable its application in medical devices, defense systems, aeronautics, power generation and semiconductor devices manufacturing.
The energy absorbers segment is anticipated to attract major demand with the growing demand from end-user markets to cater functional requirements such as sound, impact and thermal energy absorption. The automotive industry is keenly testing the feasibility of these products to be used for light-weighting, crash absorption, and blast mitigation.
Global metal foam market revenue by application, 2016 (%)
Metal-based cellular materials have potential in a vast sector of industrial, commercial, and some consumer goods, for various functions, namely impact energy absorption, thermal and sound insulation, light-weight construction, etc. Aluminum composite finds its application right from lifting arms in lorries, crash boxes for cars, till transverse beams and mounting brackets for various mechanical equipment.
Hydrogen disassociation can also be achieved with nickel foams, which makes them a potential material in molten carbonate fuel cells as an electro catalyst. Nickel composite can be used in the filter material, fluid magnetic conductor, magnetic particles processing, hydrogen storage media and heat exchange medium. The development observed in nickel composite is presently steady, and gradually gearing up for industrialization.
Owing to the biodegradability and biocompatibility, magnesium foams are being considered for biomaterial use. The porosity level of these composites can be equated to coincide the strength of the body parts. The cellular structure of these products also improves the performance of implants with natural tissues.
Increasing population in China and India are likely to generate a steady demand for passenger cars and light commercial fuel-efficient vehicles. Stringent emission standards in North America, Europe have left global carmakers and consumers with minimal choice but to embrace electricity-powered vehicles, triggering an investment surge. In Europe, green cars benefit from subsidies, tax cuts, and other perks, whereas combustion engines encounter enormous penalties which include parking and driving restrictions.
Research carried out by the U.S. Aluminum Association has reported that, as of 2016, aluminum has excelled cast iron as the second-most profuse automotive material, with an average 144 kg per vehicle in North America. On a similar note, the International Magnesium Association forecasts the use of magnesium to increase by 5-7% from the present usage, i.e., 4.5 to 5.4 kg per vehicle.
Owing to the China’s recent emergence as a major producer of low-cost magnesium, composites made from magnesium are expected to witness a significant increase in myriad applications beyond the automotive sector. The U.S. Department of Energy has sanctioned a budget of USD 4 million, for the research on utilization of magnesium in the automotive industry.
In November 2014, researchers at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, came up with the concept of ultra-light material crafted from gold, for sufficing useful applications requiring weight reduction and strength enhancement. China and certain other states in the U.S. have initiated regulations to push the state level rules towards implementation of ‘zero emission’ vehicles.
Price and quality of raw material are the key competing factors since differentiation in commodities is usually tedious. The rising demand for aluminum in various applications has helped raw material suppliers protect themselves from the tremendous volatility persisting in the market. Bargaining power of the manufacturers varies with resource availability, by unique performance attributes, a foundry’s cost of switching, service capabilities, etc. Metal foundries in the U.S. have shrunk despite the consolidation of customers.
Most of the industry participants get to strike a good deal with metal suppliers since demand and supply directly determine the price of the material. This is aided by the high cost of storage and long gestation period of aluminum incurred by suppliers, a major reason for the manufacturers to push out the product into the market as early as possible.
The market has witnessed a significant increase in the establishment of new casting capacities in past few years. Substantial new capacities have been built by companies having a presence in India and Japan. Although a significant share of the national production is consumed in domestic markets, their availability in the U.S. markets is also expected.
Base year for estimation
Actual estimates/Historical data
2014 - 2016
2017 - 2025
Volume in tons, revenue in USD thousand and CAGR from 2017 to 2025
North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Central & South America, Middle East & Africa
U.S., Germany, UK, France, China, India, Japan
Volume forecast, revenue forecast, company share, competitive landscape, growth factors and trends
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Segments covered in the report
This report forecasts revenue growth at global, regional & country levels and provides an analysis on the industry trends in each of the sub-segments from 2014 to 2025. For the purpose of this study, Grand View Research has segmented the global metal foam market on the basis of material, application, end-use and region:
Material Outlook (Volume, Tons; Revenue, USD Thousand, 2014 - 2025)
Application Outlook (Volume, Tons; Revenue, USD Thousand, 2014 - 2025)
Side Impact Bars
End-use Outlook (Volume, Tons; Revenue, USD Thousand, 2014 - 2025)
Regional Outlook (Volume, Tons; Revenue, USD Thousand, 2014 - 2025)
Central & South America
Middle East & Africa
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