In an interview with the German Giesserei magazine, GIFA and NEWCAST President Heinz Nelissen is optimistic that foundries will face future challenges and solve the problems together with their customers and suppliers.
What can visitors expect from the upcoming GIFA trade show? What will be different compared to last GIFA in 2015?
The megatrend of the moment and the topic of the future in production technology is additive manufacturing. Also the digital transformation is an issue for foundries. 3D printing has been gaining in importance alongside traditional manufacturing techniques. 3D printing has already proved its worth in practice in a wide range of high-end sectors such as in medical engineering as well as in the automotive and aerospace industries. Meanwhile the foundry industry and the steel and aluminium sectors have recognised the potential of 3D printing. GIFA is going to dedicate due attention to this topic, among others by a special show featuring the great potential this technology provides. I am sure that we will see 3D solutions and products not only at the special show, but also at numerous exhibitor stands. We are very likely to come across exciting approaches to designing self-optimising systems as part of the “digital transformation”.
Who should visit GIFA?
Everybody active in the foundry industry or in related sectors should see GIFA as an opportunity to get a personal impression of the state of the art and current development trends. The main target groups of GIFA are employees and managers of iron, steel and malleable iron foundries, as well as non-ferrous metal foundries. The trade show also addresses mechanical and apparatus engineering companies and manufacturers of equipment for the automotive and gear engineering sectors as well as the supply industry.
Recent development trends like 3D printing and digital technology are characterised by much shorter innovation cycles than those we know from classical foundry equipment suppliers. Competitive events such as the biennial Euroguss become bigger and more international, and new trade fairs with new focuses, like CastForge in Stuttgart, have emerged. How is GIFA positioned within this competitive landscape?
Events with a regional or national scope fulfill an important role, as they cover topical issues from the expert angle and address a regional audience. However, GIFA – and METEC, THERMPROCESS and NEWCAST alike showcase innovations, products and services on a global scale. No other trade show provides such a wide-ranging and far-reaching picture of the complete range of foundry technology, cast products, metallurgy and thermal processing technology. It is a forum for both the big players of the foundry industry and the smaller, highly innovative champions to present themselves to a large audience. The big equipment suppliers often time their research and development projects around the four-year cycle of the show. The key to the success of this trade fair quartet is that it covers the complete market of both the demand and supply side. This also mirrors in the decision-making responsibility represented by the GIFA visitors. In 2015 more than half of the about 50 000 visitors held top management positions and correspondingly high decision-making responsibilities. In terms of internationality, the trade fair quartet GMTN is second to none. In 2015, 58% of the visitors came from 112 different countries. And the four-year cycle ensures that the event does not lose any vigour.
Is it true that apart from new topics such as additive manufacturing and the digital transformation the overall concept of the fair has remained the same?
Obviously GIFA comes up to the visitors’ expectations. For example, in 2015, 97% of the about 50 000 visitors gave a very high rating to the event and stated that their expectations had been fulfilled. Every second one stated that they had established new supplier relations. GIFA is certainly an ideal platform to meet customers, colleagues and junior staff. Young talent is expected to visit the trade show in great numbers again next year.
In which way has the economic landscape changed versus 2015?
A key criterion for the assessment of the foundry market is the cast output. Non-ferrous metals foundries have seen a constant rise in production and, with lightweight construction and e-mobility gaining in importance, their prospects for the future are also excellent, especially in pressure and low-pressure die casting.
But not for the iron foundries?
The iron foundries in Germany and elsewhere in Western Europe experienced a rather moderate development from 2011 until recently. However, since 2017 and the first half of 2018, they have been feeling a clear upturn. This was triggered by the growing demand in the mechanical engineering sector as a result of a catch-up effect and a booming phase in all its sub-segments, with the exception of wind power. Although the current market situation is very positive, there is a dark cloud on the horizon. This is due to the dramatically changing eco-political environment. Just take the anti-free trade measures implemented by the US Administration, the unsolved Brexit or the increase in sanctions. The reliability of business relations has definitely not improved. Let’s hope that the all in all a positive climate will persist beyond next year’s GIFA.
What will be the main top issue at next GIFA?
I do not see one single, overwhelming topic, but several interrelating and interdependent issues. As well as additive manufacturing, topics like lightweight construction in automotive engineering, Industry 4.0, the digital transformation, energy and resource efficiency, and sustainability will play central roles at the next GIFA, not forgetting e-mobility.
Do you see additive manufacturing and casting as partners or competitors?
They are two complementary trends. Generative processes currently represent one of the most important and intensive research areas of the global industry. Products for specific applications, prototypes and parts for airplanes are already being produced by 3D printing, replacing castings in these areas. However, for large series production, casting still is the most economical process according to statements by major OEMs. With computers becoming increasingly more efficient and faster, costs decreasing and the quality of metal powders improving, this balance may, however, slightly shift towards 3D printing in the future. There are already examples of applications where 3D printing and casting complement each other. These will be featured in a special show at GIFA.
In your opinion, what is the currently the most exciting development in the world of casting?
Our industry can only prosper in the long run when we succeed in attracting and training foundry specialists of the next generation now! Our trade associations BDG and VDG as well as universities and companies have undertaken great efforts to improve our industry’s image and make the foundry trade attractive for more young people. We see the first positive results of this campaign. An increasing number of university graduates have followed the invitation to our annual foundry conferences in recent years. At the next GMTN we will offer a special programme for school students, giving them the opportunity to learn about the vast range of highly attractive technology related jobs.
The interview with GIFA and NEWCAST President Heinz Nelissen was conducted by Gerd Krause, Mediakonzept, Düsseldorf, Germany. This is a shortened version of the interview. To read the full interview visit: https://www.vesuvius.com/en/media/press-releases/foundry/en/Interview-Heinz-Nelissen-GIFA.html