Aircraft makers focus on raw materials

Mar 26, 2014 | 07:13 AM | Andrea Hotter

Tags  aerospace, aluminum, Boeing, Aleris International, aluminum alloy, aluminum scrap, titanium, Alcoa Kaiser Aluminum

NEW YORK — Buy-to-fly is the latest buzzword in aerospace, and it’s already making an impact on the raw materials that commercial aircraft makers are selecting.

Composites have been inching their way onto commercial planes for years but were catapulted to the forefront of production by Boeing Co. a decade ago.

The Chicago-based aerospace giant launched its 787 Dreamliner program in 2004 with a record order from Tokyo-based All Nippon Airways Co. Ltd. Since then, 60 customers from six continents have placed orders for more than 1,000 airplanes valued at more than $240 billion, making it the most successful twin-aisle launch of a new commercial airplane in Boeing’s history.

Composite materials make up slightly more than 50 percent of the 787 Dreamliner’s primary structure, including the fuselage and wing, which distinguishes it from its competitors.

Manufacturing its fuselage as one-piece sections eliminated 1,500 aluminum sheets and between 40,000 and 50,000 fasteners per section.

“We’re spending more time looking at composites—it is the material of the future. You’re seeing it in automotives and other areas like sports bikes too. It’s stronger and lighter than steel and titanium,” Jeff Carpenter, senior manager of raw materials procurement and supplier management for the company’s Boeing Commercial Airplanes division, told AMM.

Similarly, Toulouse, France-based Airbus SAS’ A380 model is produced using about 25 percent in composite materials, with more than 50 percent of the A350 model projected to be composite based, including the wings and fuselage. Arguably, the company started using composites before Boeing, but on a much smaller scale.....

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