The global tool steel market growth is anticipated to be driven by increasing demand from machinery industry. Tools steel is particularly suited for tool manufacturing such as machine dies or hand tools. The key properties exhibited by the product such as resistance to abrasion, hardness, and its ability to maintain shape at extreme temperatures make the product suitable for manufacturing various parts of machinery such as reamers, bits, and cutters.
The product is generally used for forging, stamping, cutting, slitting, and plastic extrusion. Therefore the product plays a crucial role in shaping materials such as plastics and other metal sheets into suitable components as demand by the end-use industries.
One of the significant application of tool steel is the production of forging dies. Recent trend indicates several innovations and changes being observed especially in the metal forging industry. The penetration of materials such as titanium and aluminum is gaining rapid pace in aerospace, automotive, and medical industries as these materials have benefits of lower weight and high performance as compared to other materials such as steel. Aerospace and automotive components commonly found at stress and shock points are typically manufactured from metal forging process. Therefore positive growth of metal forging market is likely to drive tool steel market growth.
Plastic molding dies is yet another important application of the product. Increasing demand for injection molded plastic components from various end-use industries such as electrical and electronics, automotive, home appliance, and packaging is projected to drive plastic injection molding market, which in turn is expected to benefit tool steel market growth.
The penetration of carbide-based materials in manufacturing of cutting components is likely to restrain tool steel market growth to some extent. Carbide based tools are majorly used for turning, boring, and face milling applications due to their high cutting speed.
On the basis of product group, the tool steel market is segmented into water hardening, cold work, shock resisting, hot work, high speed, and plastic mold. Products in water hardening group (W-group) have high carbon content and are suitable for small parts and applications where extreme temperatures are not encountered. The toughness of these products can be increased by adding alloying elements such as chromium, molybdenum, silicon, manganese, and vanadium. Chromium is added to impart additional toughness while vanadium is added to impart hardness and improved wear resistance.
The W-group tool steels are one of the oldest and most commonly used tool steels. Cold heading, coining, knurling, are punching are the typical applications of W-group products. The lower cost of these products as compared to other groups make them popular among machinery manufacturers. However, the growth of this segment is lower when compared to other groups owing to their limited applications in high temperature operations.
The cold work group consists of three types of tool steels, air hardening, oil hardening, and high carbon chromium. The tool steels in these groups have strong wear resistance, high hardenability, with average toughness. Therefore these products are typically used in the manufacturing of larger parts that has minimal distortion requirements. The oil hardening products are mainly used to produce high quality forks and knives.
High carbon chromium tool steels can retain their hardness up to temperature of 425 degree Celsius. These products are commonly used in applications such as die casting, drawing dies, and forging dies. There is high demand of forged metals particularly from aerospace industry. The rising production of aircraft due to growing airline traffic is predicted to drive the segment growth over the coming years.
How-working tool steels are alloyed with elements such as chromium, tungsten, and molybdenum so as to withstand extreme working temperatures. As a result, these products find applications in hot-extrusion dies, hot-forging dies, die-casting dies, hot shear, and plastic molding dies. Rapid growth in the building & construction sector, especially in emerging economies, has resulted in increased demand for extruded metals such as aluminum. This is anticipated to contribute to the demand for hot-working tool steels.
On the basis of region, Asia Pacific was estimated to be the largest market in 2018. Further, the region is anticipated to be the fastest growing over the coming years. China is the largest manufacturing hub in the region while India’s manufacturing sector is set to grow at a rapid momentum owing to government initiatives like “Make In India”. Moreover, the economy of Southeast Asia is poised to experience lucrative growth owing to increasing industrial activities in the region. The aforementioned factors are anticipated to significantly drive the regional market growth.
North America market is likely to be driven by flourishing aerospace parts manufacturing industry in the region. In fact, the U.S. garnered a share of approximately 47% in the global aerospace parts manufacturing industry. Therefore the U.S. represents a significant market for tool steel as there will be rising demand for forged aerospace parts in the country.
Major players in the global tool steel market include Nachi-Fujikoshi Corp., Hitachi Metals, Ltd., Voestalpine, Samuel, Son & Co., Eramet SA, Ltd, Tiangong International Co., Ltd., Pennsylvania Steel Company, Inc., and QiLu Special Steel Co., Ltd.
Companies are adopting expansion strategies to expand their market share and exploit growth opportunities especially in emerging economies of Asia Pacific. For instance, Hitachi Metals, Ltd. established a new company in called Hitachi Metals (Ningbo) Co., Ltd. in Zhejiang Province of China in November 2018. The new company was established by Hitachi Metals, Ltd. to expand its tool stool business in China.
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