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Aluminum service centers see uptick

Keywords: Tags  service center, 2024, 7075, aerospace, commercial, Airbus, Boeing, aluminum Suzy Waite

NEW YORK — Aluminum service centers are cautiously optimistic about demand in 2013 amid a slight increase in orders.

Demand for 2000- and 7000-series plate for commercial applications, such as tooling and machining, has risen in particular, according to one service center source.

"I’d say truly for the first time since 2008, we’ve received a lot of inquiries for 2024(-series) and 7075(-series) commercial plate. These orders are definitely picking up," he told AMM. "It’s a combination of inquiries and orders that weren’t there before. I have no idea why, but I’m thrilled to see it." "(I’d) say the overall market for hard alloy plate is improving," a second service center source said.

A third service center source agreed that he’s seen an uptick in demand for 2024-series plate, although most of his sales are to airplane seat manufacturers.

While most focused on new aircraft build rates—Alcoa Inc. estimates Airbus SAS and Boeing Co.’s order backlogs are eight years—plane refurbishment is also an area of strong demand at the moment, the third service center source said.

"If you have an old plane, like ten years, that’s not old enough to replace but it needs sprucing up, (then you refurbish). Refurbishing is huge now," the third service center source said. "We’re doing a whole bunch of business, non-Boeing spec, that goes onto airplanes, like aircraft seats. I call it aircraft applications. (Airlines) are spending all of this money on seats. When you reconfigure a 200-passenger plane, you don’t just fix two seats. You’re talking about at least 50."

Sources said the fundamentals should dictate the market more than sentiment over the economy.

"(People point) to the fiscal cliff, or whatever the crisis du jour is for their excuse for inaction. ... The fact is there is not a lot of inventory and people need metal," the third service center source said.

"The end of last week was really good, but it hasn’t really translated into this week," the second service center source added. "We’re not far enough along yet (in January) to gauge. But I’m optimistic."

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