Aerospace demand for aluminum will grow at a significantly
slower rate than for other major materials during the coming
decade, as production of composite-heavy twin-aisle airliners
ramps up, an aircraft industry analyst said during
AMMs Aluminum Summit last week.
demand will increase at a "relatively steady" rate of 0.7
percent from 2012 to 2022, Peter Zimm, a principal at
consultancy ICF SH&E, a unit of Fairfax, Va.-based ICF
International Inc., said. This will be the lowest of all major
raw materials, led by composites, at 9.7 percent; titanium
alloys, at 7.2 percent; superalloys, at 4.4 percent; and steel
alloys, at 1.3 percent.
"We do expect aluminum
to be growing modestly over this period," Zimm said, pointing
out that development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus
A380 marked a "significant increase in the use of
Composites have also
"emerged as the material of choice" for the wings on such new
aircraft as the Bombardier CSeries and Airbus A350 XWB, as well
as for the new version of the Boeing 777, whose present
aluminum wing might be replaced with composites.
The use of titanium is
often associated with carbon-fiber composites because aluminum
isnt always considered compatible with these materials.
But Zimm sees decisions by Airbus SAS and Boeing Co. to
re-engine rather than redesign their upcoming versions of their
top selling single-aisle A320 and 737 airliners as good news
for aluminum. The A320neo and 737 MAX are "more friendly to
aluminum" since they involve new engines rather than a complete
redesign of these planes, "retaining their incumbent
materials," including aluminum.
2012 raw material model has aluminum accounting for 49 percent
of the annual aircraft industry buy weight of 1.208 billion
pounds, with steel alloys representing 23 percent, titanium and
superalloys each 9 percent, composites 4 percent and various
other materials the remainder. Air transports account for 77
percent of this consumption, with business and general aviation
11 percent, military 9 percent and the remainder rotary wing
In terms of value,
aluminum and titanium each account for $2.4 billion out of a
total annual buy of $8.7 billion, with superalloys $1.5 billion
and composites $1.4 billion, Zimm said.
While 20 percent of
commercial aircraft deliveries normally replace retired planes,
over the next decade this will grow to a projected 47 percent,
Zimm pointed out. Part of the reason is due to fleet
demographics, with a "bulge" of planes purchased around 1990
approaching retirement age.
But there are other
reasons for this "refleeting," he said, especially the rising
price of fuel, which represents one-third or more of airline
operating costs. This in turn has spurred the need for more
fuel-efficient planes with innovative airframes and new
interest rates at historically low levels, even second- and
third-tier airlines that traditionally buy used planes are
"themselves able to buy new aircraft," Zimm said.