The global switch to lead-free soldering a number of years ago has added to the growth in tin demand. Solder used in circuit boards is nowadays comprised of 96 – 99 per cent tin, up from 60 – 63 per cent when it was blended with lead. Macquarie’s Commodities Research Report released on July 8 reported that global semi-conductor shipments rose by six per cent year on year (YoY) to US$287 billion annualised in May. On a month on month (MoM) basis, shipments were flat but this was still the best May performance since 2008. These shipments give a guide to output by the electronics manufacturing industry and thereby demand for solder alloys.

With the rise of new electronic products such as tablets and smart phones, where the typical tin-solder content ranges from 0.7 grams to 1.0 grams, we can expect to see an increase in demand for tin. This demand is buoyed with tin use being widely considered to be the most promising technology for storing energy in mobile electronics, electric vehicles and renewable energy systems, such as for wind and solar power (source: Peter Kettle, ITRI).

Although, the electronics manufacturing industry has run down stocks of tin solder over the last two years in response to flat and in some cases declining sales, the rise in shipments is a positive indicator for the future of tin. This is supported by Macquarie’s data that suggests the market could be moving towards a period of re-stocking, which could add to an improved outlook for tin consumption. The solder market accounts for more than 50 per cent of tin consumption around the world.

Sources: ITRI, Macquarie Commodities Research Report