Introduction to Tinmill Products
Tinmill products and related light-gauge, surface-critical steel and metal products are grouped together due to similar characteristics, manufacturing methods, material processing and end uses. “Tinplate” is often used in the market to represent all tinmill products, but tinmill products include electrolytic tinplate (ETP), tin-free steel (TFS) or electrolytic chromium coated steel (ECCS), and tinmill blackplate (TMBP), the uncoated steel substrate.
Rough estimates have placed global production at between 14 million tons and 18 million tons per year, but due to low rates of utilization, it is difficult to estimate true global tinplate capacity. On the demand side, roughly 3 million tons of tinplate are consumed in North America, 2 million tons in Latin America, 3 million tons in Europe, 2 million tons in Africa and 6 million tons in Asia.
Approximately 70% of tinplate is purchased directly from the mill by the end user, with the remainder purchased by service centers and traders.
Service centers and traders fulfill a key role in the supply chain between the mills and the end users. By pooling the demand of small end users, providing value added service to large end users, and providing a constant source of demand for the mills, server centers and traders ensure that the market remains efficient and material is properly allocated and distributed across the global landscape. Service center and traders provide considerable flexibility and liquidity to the market and its participants.
Related products include a wide range of light-gauge, surface critical “flat” products such as cold rolled steel, stainless steel, aluminum, laminated steel, galvanized steel, painted steel and aluminized steel. These products are often substitutes and offer many similar characteristics. The final choice of using tinplate or an alternative often comes down to historical experience and comparative pricing of the metal. However, more holistic analyses are now being done, allowing for end users to transition to more appropriate materials.
The chemical compositions of these products make them easily workable and mills can produce a wide range of specifications to give end users further customization. In general, tinplate and the related products are produced as coils and are cut into sheets or slit into mults that are more easily formed or drawn into end products. Most end users cannot use the ~8 ton coils on their processing lines and instead need the coil to be reduces to a more manageable input such as slit coil mults or cut sheets.