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Durable goods manufacturing markets will continue to comprise the majority of abrasives demand, accounting for 74% of the total in 2014. The U.S. motor vehicle market will offer the best prospects for abrasives, as motor vehicle production is expected to post double-digit gains through 2014, coming off of a depressed 2009 base. Abrasives sales in markets such as primary metals and machinery will log solid gains as the economy strengthens and demand for capital equipment and related components increases. Healthy gains are also expected for abrasives in other markets, particularly construction, which will benefit from a recovery in residential construction spending through 2014.
Nonmetallic abrasives (e.g., coated and bonded abrasives, and loose grains and powders) are forecast to outperform metallic abrasives through 2014. Demand for nonmetallic abrasives will be supported by strong increases in the use of loose abrasive grains, as well as by a continuing shift in the product mix toward higher-value products such as garnet and manufactured diamond. Coated abrasives will log solid increases, aided by growing use of more costly but better-performing abrasive grains.
Increases in abrasive raw material demand will be led by manufactured minerals, as superabrasives like manufactured diamond and cubic boron nitride continue to be used extensively due to their hardness and superior performance characteristics. These materials offer increased productivity (e.g., they last longer than conventional materials, thus requiring fewer changeovers) and improved operating efficiency. Demand for natural minerals (e.g., silica sand, pumice) used in abrasive applications will be limited by competition from better-performing manufactured alternatives.
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