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Titanium airframe demand seen rising

Oct 08, 2013 | 03:03 PM | Frank Haflich

Tags  titanium airframes, Dawne S. Hickton, RTI International, International Titanium Association, Allegheny Technologies, Hunter Dalton, Frank Haflich

LAS VEGAS — Titanium demand for commercial transport airframes will grow 12.1 percent per year through 2017, pushing annual demand in the sector up 78 percent, according to the top executive at RTI International Metals Inc.

Titanium mill shipments for commercial airframes will increase to 89 million pounds in 2017 from 50 million pounds last year, Dawne S. Hickton, vice chairwoman, president and chief executive officer of Pittsburgh-based RTI, said at the International Titanium Association’s annual conference in Las Vegas this week. "Our projections are that in five years we will see 40 million pounds of titanium annually added to today’s aerostructure (requirement)."

RTI forecasts that titanium for commercial airframes will grow to 61 million pounds this year and to 74 million pounds in 2014.

While overall titanium demand for new aircraft engines will increase in the years ahead, its rate of annual growth will slow despite a tripling in the growth rate for new commercial engines, according to Hunter Dalton, president of ATI Allvac Inc., the Monroe, N.C.-based unit of Allegheny Technologies Inc., and executive vice president of Pittsburgh-based ATI’s long products business segment.

Titanium for new engine builds will grow 4.5 percent annually from 2013 to 2016 after rising 7.6 percent per year from 2004 through 2012, Dalton said.

Allvac estimates that production of new engines for commercial aircraft will grow 9 percent annually from 2013 through 2016, compared with 3 percent from 2004 to 2012, boosting production of commercial transport engines to more than 3,500 in 2016 from less than 2,000 in 2004.

Dalton noted that while the larger engines built in the years ahead will mean a greater overall demand for titanium, inroads are being made by competing materials, including composites in the lower-temperature areas of the engine where titanium castings and forged blades have reigned. Titanium also will "face challenges" from nickel alloys as higher-temperature areas such as the compressor become even hotter.

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