Sheet metal processing industry in Bulgaria

Technical ArticlesSouth-East European INDUSTRIAL Мarket - issue 3/2020 • 31.08.2020

Sheet metal is one of the major materials utilized in metal working as it allows to be cut and bent in various shapes. The thickness value of these metals varies widely, with ultra-thin sheets considered as leaf or foil, and pieces thicker than 6 mm referred to as plate or structural steel. The sheet metal processing industry offers the opportunity for fabrication of different parts through cutting, punching, stamping, bending, etc.

Products made of sheet metal are characterised by high strength and are used in sturdy structures. Major advantage of these products is that they are thin and lightweight, which facilitates their easy transportation. As sheet metals offer moisture and corrosion resistance, the fabricated parts can be used under various weather conditions. Other positive aspects of using sheet metal include durability, recyclability, and widespread availability.

Global market trends

One of the key factors expected to contribute to the growth of the global market is the continually rising demand for sheet metal in aerospace and defence industry. Additionally, the rapidly increasing number of commercial airlines is projected to further drive the demand for sheet metal processing services and support revenue growth of the target market. Global market growth is also supported by increasing use of CNC machine tools for shaping and moulding of sheet metals and advancements in technology such as jerk control, motion control software functions, and AI contour control, which all contribute to reducing the cycle time as well as to lowering the manufacturing costs of each part.

According to a report by Grand View Research, in 2018 the global sheet metal market size amounted to USD 265 billion and is expected to exhibit a CAGR of 5,0% until 2025. The growing construction industry in the US is expected to contribute to the growth of the market. Data from the US Census Bureau shows that construction spending in the US increased by 3,7% in 2018 reaching USD 1293,9 billion. In the construction industry, sheet metal is used in numerous applications including roofing, ductwork, rain gutters, and industrial shades.

Market specialists believe that the use of lightweight materials and alloys with titanium and aluminium is likely to contribute to the growth of the sector. Titanium is a stronger and lighter metal than steel. It is alloyed with iron, aluminuim, manganese, and other metals in order to improve physical and chemical properties. The demand for titanium metal is anticipated to grow on account of its extensive use in the aerospace industry for applications including aircraft skin, structural parts, engine components, hydraulic systems, etc. A major factor hampering market growth is likely to be the growing trend among automotive manufacturers to form partnerships with producers of carbon fiber.

The sheet metal market is classified into steel, aluminium, and other metals such as tin, copper, etc. According to market studies, in terms of revenue, aluminium is expected to expand at the highest CAGR of 9,2% from 2019 to 2025. This is due to the properties of aluminium such as strength, lightweight, ductility, reflectivity, electrical and heat conductivity, and corrosion resistance, which make it suitable for various applications in a few end-use industrial sectors. It is the right choice for joining, fabrication, machining, forming, and finishing applications.

In 2018, steel accounted for the largest share of 91,7% in the sheet metal market. Products made of steel sheet are widely used in various industries including automotive, construction, and heavy industries such as oil & gas, food processing, and chemicals. Stainless steel sheets are used in the manufacturing of kitchenware and cookware. Over the next few years, the rising importance of steel in the construction industry in developing and developed economies is expected to propel the market. On account of properties such as high quality, durability, economic benefits, sustainability, strength, long life, and low maintenance costs, market analysers project that the demand for steel sheet products will increase significantly over the next seven years.


Sheet metal industry in Bulgaria

Official market data shows that, as of 2018, Europe accounted for around 22,3% of the global production of cars and commercial vehicles. The European automotive industry is expected to be the key driver for the growth of the sheet metal sector over the coming years.

The Bulgarian Association of Metallurgical Industry reported that the total production of rolled ferrous metals in 2018 in Bulgaria amounted to 1130,9 thousand tonnes, an increase of 1,2% compared to the previous year. Nearly 860 thousand tonnes of those were long rolled products (75,9%) with the remaining 273 thousand tonnes being flat rolled products (24,1%). BAMI reports that in 2018 there was an increase both in flat rolled steel (by 9,1 thousand tonnes or 3,5%) and in long rolled steel (by 211 thousand tonnes or 32,6%), compared to 2017.

In 2018, Bulgarian enterprises realized on the domestic market 310,7 thousand tonnes of ferrous metals and products made of them, registering an increase by 46%, following a decrease over the last three years. The same year the export was also growing and the total trade turnover amounted to over 1,2 million tonnes, a record value for the 2013-2017 period.

Because of the limited domestic consumption of rolled ferrous metals, parts and products made of them, the sector is strongly export-oriented. As the existing trade policy and free market are quite liberal, both within the EU and on a regional and global scale, there is a highly competitive environment and often there are unfair imports from third countries. This is also a barrier to the realization of larger quantities on the domestic market. In 2018, the ratio of exports/realization on the domestic market for basic metallurgical products – flat and long rolled products is 75%/25%.

In Bulgaria, the growth of the sheet metal processing industry is mainly driven by the building and construction sector. Key applications of sheet metal in the construction industry are roofing, walling, and cladding. According to a recent research, the increasing use of stainless steel sheets in curtain wall and roofing has influenced Bulgaria’s market for sheet metals positively.

The majority of Bulgarian companies engaged in sheet metal processing use high-tech CNC machine tools, allowing them to achieve the desired levels of quality, precision and characteristics of the finished product. Tools for laser cutting, stamping, bending, welding and hydraulic presses offer the opportunity for fabrication of a wide range of products – from hydraulic tanks and control panels to cabinets and fireplaces.