NEW YORK New
alloys have to "buy their way" onto aircraft, and
aluminum-lithium has proven too expensive for Boeing Co.,
according to a senior executive.
"So far it has been
cost-prohibitive," Jeff Carpenter, senior manager of raw
material procurement, supplier management, for the parent
companys Boeing Commercial Airplanes unit, said at
AMMs Aluminum Summit in New York.
The aluminum industry
claims aluminum-lithium has superior strength-to-weight
performance vs. more conventional alloys as well as improved
stiffness, damage tolerance and corrosion resistance.
that aluminum-lithium is "interestingits great."
But "its really expensive." He did not reveal just how
excessively costly Boeing believes it to be.
stressed Boeings reluctance to adopt a material whose
developer is determined to keep production in-house. "Our
preference is for dual sourcing on commodity-type materials,"
he said, adding later that this is just a starting point.
This attitude to
sourcing is not limited to Boeing or aerospace, Carpenter
indicated. He noted that an automotive executive told Aluminum
Summit delegates earlier that it is become increasingly
difficult to choose "proprietary boutique alloys" for his
aluminum producers to ensure there are multiple production
sources for any widely used material. "Were looking for
the industry to come together," he said.
Carpenter did not
mention any aluminum producers in particular. Constellium,
formerly Alcan Engineered Products, is considered a major
global factor in aluminum-lithium, and has been working to
develop the alloys for decades. Alcoa Inc., which has completed
expansion of its Kitts Green facility in England, said last
week it expects its aluminum-lithium annual revenues to
quadruple to $200 million within six years (
amm.com, June 18).
C-Series airliner, due to enter service next year, and Airbus
SAS A350 XWB, entering service in 2015, are among the
aircraft that are believed to be using aluminum-lithium
Carpenter noted that
one of the claimed advantages for aluminum-lithium is that "in
theory" it could serve as a "drop-in replacement everywhere"
for other aluminum alloys without the need for redesigning a
planes major parts or components, as could occur when a
brand-new material is substituted.
He also said that
high-speed machining has allowed Boeing to take products like
castings out of its planes and instead produce certain parts by
"hogging out plate." He noted that Boeing has more than 500
"key machine shops buying aluminum for us," primarily through
its exclusive service provider, Kent, Wash.-based service
center TMX Aerospace Inc., a division of ThyssenKrupp Materials