Kitchen aid: Appliances still large consumer of metals

Oct 31, 2012 | 07:00 PM | Nathan Laliberte

Tags  appliances, dishwashers, refrigerators, Wayne Morris, Home Appliance Manufacturers, aluminum, copper, stainless steel Jill Notini

As of late, some manufacturing sectors--particularly automotive--have seen original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) explore the possibility of using larger quantities of materials such as high-grade plastics and carbon fiber instead of steel and aluminum.

The appliance sector, however, is still deeply committed to using metals and has all but eliminated the possibility of replacing vital metal components with alternative materials. While light-weighting, sustainability and recycling have become huge issues, appliance manufacturers have remained committed to developing new technologies within the metals sector rather than looking to other, less-proven materials.

Wayne Morris, vice president of technical operations and standards at the Washington-based Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), said metals--mostly steel, aluminum and copper--will continue to play a crucial role in appliance manufacturing, even as OEMs search for ways to lighten structural components without compromising strength or quality.

“It’s pretty hard to function without metal being the base material for the product,” Morris said. “The motors are becoming exceedingly more important because of their energy efficiency, and so we have seen a change in the motor design taking place in many of our products. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t just as much steel or copper or aluminum in the motor; the electronics are changing, but not the base materials.”

Over the past decade, stainless steel has taken a larger role in most upscale kitchen appliances. Jill Notini, vice president of communications and marketing at AHAM, said consumer demand for stainless is stronger than ever. “Right now, for our core category of appliances--dishwashers, refrigerators and ranges--about 35 percent of those products have a stainless steel finish,” she said. “That’s a huge number that has grown a lot.”....

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