How Will Rising Demand and Supply Disruptions Impact the Future of Aluminum Production?
Aluminum is one of the most widely used materials. It’s essential to industrial goods like 2024 aluminum washers and aerospace aluminum washers and rivets, as well as everyday products like soda cans, cookware, and laptops. Aluminum’s ubiquity is due to its many advantages, which include an excellent strength-to-weight, natural resistance to rust, economy, and manufacturing versatility. But demand for this metal, combined with widespread supply chain disruptions, is having effects across all types of industries and markets. The issues are affecting all types of buyers, whether they’re OEMs producing smartphones, brewers in need of cans for their beer, or they simply need to purchase aluminum washers for maintenance purposes.
How long the aluminum supply chain disruptions will last is difficult to say, but they, along with persistent demand, have already sent prices soaring to heights that have not been seen in over a decade. This has led to a tough set of circumstances for manufacturers, distributors, and customers alike.
Makers and sellers of all types of products have had to adjust their operations, with some halting production and drawing out fulfillment times from days to weeks, or even months. Consumers who are in need of electronic devices, kitchenware, aluminum special flat washers, and other products are left waiting.
Using Secondary Aluminum as A Primary Manufacturing Material
Since these logistical bottlenecks are expected to last for some time, some companies are looking for ways to maximize their resources and reduce their reliance on a very limited and high-priced aluminum market. For example, one of the world’s biggest producers of consumer electronics has begun to shift towards 100 percent recycled aluminum in the production of its iPads. The change is part of a push to achieve 100 percent carbon-neutral operations by 2030, but it’s also a smart move in the current market.
More utilization of recycled aluminum makes good economic and environmental sense simply because there is so much of the material available. However, the secondary aluminum still comes with its own set of sourcing and processing obstacles. Sourcing scrap and smelting secondary aluminum requires less energy and has less of an environmental impact than producing aluminum from scratch, but the process and results could be improved. Sorting scrap and ensuring the quality of input material is the first step in producing the best possible grades of secondary aluminum.
Smarter Aluminum Recycling Technologies
X-ray transmission technology, sensors, special magnets, and other solutions have been proposed as a means of more efficiently identifying and separating scrap aluminum based on unique material characteristics. The better scrap aluminum can be correctly sorted and grouped, the smoother the smelting process and the higher the integrity of the secondary aluminum. A global magnetics equipment provider based in Germany, Steinert GmbH, is working on a laser-based technology that makes it possible to identify the atomic structure of scrap aluminum with great accuracy. This sorting technology may pave the way for more intelligent and productive aluminum recycling, which could reduce supply issues and the costs of useable aluminum.
Improved aluminum recycling methods and yields will be a requirement for a future where so many companies are looking to this material to reduce the weight of the products, improve fuel economy, and reduce the amount of non-biodegradable, difficult-to-recycle components, such as those made from plastic. More and more, companies are looking at ways to use aluminum as an alternative to common materials, but as recent supply chain and global market issues have shown, those changes will depend on an alternative to current aluminum production and recycling capabilities.