Metals are essential elements of our daily lives, as they enter into the composition of a large number of products we use every day. Thus, there are 86 metals in the table of Mendeleyev, who meet many applications. Their multiple properties and the ability to mix them, in the form of alloys, give them indeed unmatched versatility and flexibility of use. As a consequence, metals are playing a major role in the advent of the upcoming technological revolutions: nanotechnology, medical prostheses, or sustainable mobility, here are themes the success of which will be based, at least in part, on metal engineering.
These appealing features do not exclude that the production and the commercialisation of metals are currently undergoing tremendous challenges around the
Some metallic resources becoming deeper to tap or only available in some isolated places, miners are often facing higher costs and longer development processes than in the past. They also need to dedicate extra efforts to the preservation of the environment and to the inclusion of local communities into their projects. The global overcapacity that has been observed for about a decade regarding many metals has depressed prices and hurt many mines. Finally, recycling, crucial for the economic efficiency and for the image of the whole sector, is gradually extending to every metal, constituting both a threat and an opportunity.
In the middle of the value chain, metallurgical groups, among which the steel industry, are consolidating, are running ambitious performance improvement programs and sometimes, are closing down excess capacity. Confronted with the globalization of the flows of semi-finished and finished products, as a result of the integration of the global economy into the WTO, they strive to preserve their conversion margins from the perils of squeezing or volatility, thanks to those constant productivity efforts and to, also, stronger-than-ever lobbying endeavours. In parallel, they keep an eye on product innovation, investing heavily on research and on marketing. Through these initiatives, they intend to cater to their existing clients' needs with ever more relevant and differentiated solutions. But they also try to conquer new customer segments, as evidenced for instance, by the new products brought to market for the last two decades in aerospace, automotive and construction. This regular launch of new offers underlines an intense competition between the metals themselves and with other materials (composites, concrete ...) for dominance in each field of application. To preserve or even increase their market shares, metallurgists are even increasingly engaging in a co-development logic with their customers that is beneficial to both parties.