ISTANBUL, Mar 11, 2011 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex) -- Improvements in materials like plastic are keeping copper on its toes as the industry seeks to maintain its consumption dominance in certain applications at a time of record high metal prices, an executive at German copper manufacturer Wiedland-Werke AG said Friday.
Michael Scharf, manager for extruded and drawn products, said that in order to keep its market share in applications for the electrical and construction sectors, among others, copper manufacturers need to constantly add value for customers.
"Plastics could replace certain applications of copper because plastics can also achieve high strengths, they've become construction materials," he said.
Several plastic materials are being used in place of brass in alloys, making innovation to develop new niches for copper alloys essential, Scharf said.
High copper prices have led consumers to look at alternatives like plastics as well as aluminum. Copper prices have more than trebled since slumping during the economic downturn, peaking recently at a record high of $10,190 a metric ton.
Manufacturers are also facing increased legislative demands to remove toxic materials like lead from their products. This is seeing the use of metals like silicon instead of lead in alloys, he told delegates at the Metal Bulletin copper conference in Istanbul.
Legislation includes the End of Life Vehicles Directive as well as the requirements under the Restriction of Hazardous Substances laws.