High nickel, fluctuating cobalt, rising
aluminum and stabilizing titanium prices are factors that
aerospace consumers are learning to live with, executives in
the engine, airframe and parts supply industry say.
"Nickel is obviously the landscape that has
changed dramatically," said Patrick Sample, general manager of
rotating part sourcing at GE Aviation, Cincinnati, the aircraft
engine manufacturing unit of General Electric Co.
Sample also oversees buying of titanium parts
for GE and works with Robert Schafrik, general manager of
materials and process engineering, on developing ways to
control rising materials costs.
"It's creating tremendous cost pressures for
us," Sample said. "The way the market has adjusted has been
more dynamic than our ability to pass it on to our
For titanium, Sample said that GE had entered
a long-term contract with Alvac, a unit of Allegheny
Technologies Inc., Pittsburgh, that he claimed had helped
settle market fluctuations. "That's helping bring some
consistency to that marketplace for us for that material at
least," he said.
However, special titanium alloys that don't
have large volumes still have long lead times, Schafrik said.
The emphasis at GE is on ways to improve competitively, he
said, and GE is looking at alternative materials such as
titanium aluminide intermetallics, which recently have found
their way into the parts of low-pressure turbines on GE's NX
"That's competing with nickel, and we could
push the nickel metallics up a little further into the engine
if we need to," he said.
"We're also working on ceramic matrix-type
composite programs, which have even better temperature
capabilities than our nickel superalloys, to possibly put in
the hot phases of the turbine."
In the end, though, GE expects to continue to
be a major user of nickel, titanium and cobalt, the GE
Sample noted, though, that the company is
looking at designs to see if the weight of material purchased
to what flies can be reduced.
"We're trying to reduce that ratio so that we
have less scrap," he said.