Consisting of solid metal, a metal foam is a cellular structure with gas filled pores containing a large portion of the volume. These pores can be either interconnected (open-cell foam) or sealed (closed-cell foam). Only 5% to 25% of the volume of metal foam is base metal. Its high porosity makes it ultra-light material and this material gets the strength of from square-cube law. Metal foams can be made using materials such as tantalum, titanium, and aluminum.
Metal foams are manufactured by creating air bubbles in the metallic melts. Due to high buoyancy forces these air bubbles tend to rise to the surface in the high-density liquid. This can be prevented by increasing the viscosity of molten metal. Metal foam finds its application in the manufacturing of vehicle parts, vessels, and components in machines. However, its application in automobile industry is gaining popularity as it provides a high strength structure with less weight. Using metal foams in vehicle parts reduces vibration and noise, increases stiffness, and absorbs impact energy, thus ensuring the vehicle performs well on road.
The closed-cell foams find their applications in structures that require load bearing features. They are also used for manufacturing of impact-absorbing and weight-saving structures in vehicles. Whereas, the open-cell foams are used for sound and vibration absorption applications. These are also used for filtration and catalysis for heat exchange. Furthermore they used in manufacturing of medical devices.
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New research studies are favor of the use of titanium and tantalum alloys bone implant materials due to their biocompatibility and suitable physical properties. It is important to note that several research are underway to find new applications of metal foams and new types of metal foams. For instance, in November 2015, researchers at ETH Zurich, Switzerland have created an ultra-light foam from gold, which could be used in applications demanding low weight and high strength applications. The research and development in the field of metal foam is expected to create various new applications for metal foams, thus creating an environment conducive to the growth of the global metal foams market.
A metal foam is a cellular structure consisting of a solid metal with gas-filled pores present over a large portion of the volume. The pores are sealed or interconnected depending on the method of production. The metals that are used to make metal foams include aluminum, titanium, and tantalum. Metal foams have many unique properties that make them an attractive material for components in machines, vessels, and other vehicles, mass products found primarily in cars – car body elements absorbing impact energy, increasing stiffness, and improving the comfort of usage by reducing vibration and noise.
In terms of method, the metal foams market can be divided into powder metallurgy, electro chemical deposition, vacuum vaporization, and casting method. In 2016, the powder metallurgy segment accounted for a significant share in the global metal foams market due to high yield and superior quality of the end product. The low production cost is estimated to drive the powder metallurgy segment of the metal foams market during the forecast period. Increasing demand for metal foams in end-use industries such as automotive, aerospace, construction, etc., is anticipated to boost the demand for metal foams.
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In terms of end-use, the metal foams market can be segmented into automotive, aerospace, construction, Industrial, and consumer goods. In 2016, the automotive end-use industry segment held a significant share in the global metal foams market due to rising application of metal foams in the automotive industry. The major application of metal foams in the automotive industry is to reduce vibration and noise. In the construction industry, metal foams are employed to absorb sound.
In terms of region, the global metal foams market can be segmented into Asia Pacific, North America, Europe, Middle East & Africa, and Latin America. Asia Pacific was a major market for metal foams in 2016. It is estimated to expand due to the rising number of end-use industries in the region. Increasing demand for metal foams in the automotive sector is also likely to drive the market in Asia Pacific during the forecast period. The U.S. and China are likely to account for major shares in the metal foams market in North America and Asia Pacific, respectively, due to the evolution in fabrication in these countries. The global market is anticipated to witness a shift from developed countries to the developing economies of Asia due to expansion in the construction sector in the region. China and India are projected to register a high growth rate in the metal foams market due to the advancements in the end-use sectors, technological developments, and wide expansion in application range in these countries. This, in turn, is anticipated to create a significant demand for metal foams in Asia Pacific during the forecast period.
The global demand for metal foams is anticipated to rise significantly in the near future, offering immense growth opportunities for the market. The rapid rise in demand for this product in end-use applications, its competitive manufacturing costs, and the high economic growth rates are key factors propelling the metal foams market in Asia Pacific and attracting companies to adopt expansion and R&D strategies in the region. Market players are focusing on Asia Pacific to gain substantial market share. Producers of metal foams have been compelled to adopt expansion and acquisition strategies to meet the global demand. Several producers are shifting their plants to China and India due to the high demand and low raw material & labor costs in these countries. The developments in various end-use sectors in the region are predicted to fuel the need for metal foams during the forecast period.
Key players operating in the global market include BASF SE, Evonik Industries, Rogers Corporation, SABIC Innovative Plastics, Armacell International, Stylepark AG, and Alantum.