As global markets continue to
pull out of their recent slump, the head of the International
Titanium Association (ITA) maintains that the industry will
meet the challenge of rising demand.
ITA president Michael Metz
acknowledged that when titanium emerged from a downturn in the
past, it often struggled through a period of supply-demand
"imbalance" as it strived to supply the requirements of
This time, as commercial
aerospace embarks on what is expected to be an era of prolonged
growth as non-aerospace industrial demand also rebounds, the
question is: can the industry handle the coming ramp-up? "Yes,"
Metz said, emphasizing that titanium companies today are "well
capitalized and theyve recognized the opportunities that
are out there to grow the business."
During the past three to five
years, virtually every major player in the titanium production
and supply chainfrom sponge plants and downstream into
melting and mill product manufacturinghas invested in
capacity expansion and modernization, Metz said. The pieces are
in place for a "significant growth period."
Last year, as he was about to
take the ITA helm, Metz saw the industry pulling out of its
slump and described titanium markets as "recovering." Today, he
sees that process well on its way.
The aerospace sector is "quite
good" and is due to get better, he said, not only because of
"upward pressure" on the airliner build rates of aerospace
industry leaders Boeing Co. and Airbus SAS, but also with new
commercial transport entrants from Bombardier Inc., Montreal,
Japans Mitsubishi Corp. and China.
Meanwhile, industrial markets
have "come back nicely" and resumed steady growth, which Metz
sees as illustrating titaniums continuing popularity for
these uses. Desalination uses are "very strong," serving the
worlds burgeoning requirement for clean water in
This improving forecast appeared
to be reflected in the weeks leading up to the ITAs
upcoming annual conference and exhibition, where attendance
often goes hand-in-hand with industry expectations. From a low
of less than 650 delegates at the bottom of the last market
decline in 2009, attendance bounced back to nearly 1,000 in
2010 and was on track for a possible record at this years
Oct. 2-5 meeting in San Diego.
The biggest unknown is probably the nuclear market following
the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the resulting
damage to the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, Metz said.