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RTI starts up Martinsville titanium mill

Keywords: Tags  titanium, RTI, Airbus, Martinsville, Dawne S. Hickton, Eric Zanin, EADS, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — RTI International Metals Inc. has begun commercial titanium production at its new Virginia mill products facility as commercial aircraft builder Airbus SAS emphasized the plant’s importance to its escalating metal requirements.

The $135-million plant in Martinsville will give Pittsburgh-based RTI an additional 14 million pounds of mill product capacity a year through its forging cell, although rolling capacity is also planned. Its existing Niles, Ohio, facility has a capacity of 22 million to 23 million pounds a year.

The initial production of aerospace product culminates a 10-month certification testing process at Martinsville, which became operational last year.

RTI is Toulouse, France-based Airbus’ "largest North American titanium supplier", RTI vice chairwoman, president and chief executive officer Dawne S. Hickton said in a statement.

In 2008, when the Virginia plant was first announced, RTI said the site would support its role in the production of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. However, as the aircraft program subsequently suffered delays, RTI’s role with European commercial transport builder Airbus SAS and parent European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. N.V. (EADS) grew.

"This new plant offers us greater material support due to RTI’s increased capacity to produce titanium raw material, not only for our A350 XWB (Extra Wide Body) aircraft, but to an extended number of EADS and Airbus supply chain partners," Eric Zanin, senior vice president of material procurement for EADS and Airbus, said in a statement.

Zanin told the International Titanium Association (ITA) meeting in Atlanta earlier this week that as output ramps up for the new A350 and other programs, its titanium requirement would grow significantly over the next decade.

Airbus’ titanium purchases are projected to climb to 5,558 tonnes of plate in 2015, from 2,919 tonnes (about 6.4 million pounds) in 2011 and to 3,176 tonnes for round products from 1,784 tonnes, according to Zanin. Airbus is projected to purchase 7,492 tonnes of plate and 3,902 tonnes of round products in 2020, he added.

When asked if Airbus’ escalating requirements would be a strain on the company’s suppliers, Zanin told AMM that he’s confident the Martinsville plant would play a key role in meeting those growing needs.

Each A350 airframe has 150,000 pounds of titanium buy weight, Hickton told the ITA meeting.

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