Titanium gets a lift from evolving aviation market

Sep 30, 2012 | 07:00 PM | Bill Beck

Tags  Titanium prices, aerospace industry, Michael Matz, VSMPO-Avisma, 787 Dreamliner, A350, Airbus, Boeing wind turbines

The rising price of oil and the aviation industry’s need for lighter, more-fuel-efficient aircraft are brightening the outlook for the global titanium industry.

At any given time, between 40 and 60 percent of the titanium metal shipped globally is used in aerospace and aviation, according to Michael Metz, president of the North American arm of the world’s largest titanium metal producer, Russia’s VSMPO-Avisma Corp.

And as the titanium industry heads into the final quarter of 2012, the aviation market looks especially promising because the world’s airplane builders are introducing new aircraft that have the potential to transform civil aviation. Boeing Co. has rolled out its new 787 Dreamliner and already has more than 800 orders for the fuel-efficient twin-aisle aircraft. Airbus SAS, the major European aircraft manufacturer, is introducing its wide-body A350 family of aircraft in the second half of 2014. Both the 787 and the A350 rely heavily on carbon fiber in their airframe construction.

“There’s a lot more titanium used in carbon-fiber aircraft,” said Metz, who is president of the International Titanium Association. “They’re much more titanium-intensive.”

A typical Dreamliner uses an estimated 180,000 to 225,000 pounds of titanium, which has titanium producers anticipating increased orders into 2013 and 2014. “In our world,” Metz said, “the airplane market right now is pretty good.”

The 787 and A350, which can carry as many as 250 to 300 passengers, depending on configuration, will serve as replacements for the Boeing 767 and the Airbus A330 when they begin dominating airline fleets later this decade.....

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