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RTI revs up titanium capacity with new furnace

Keywords: Tags  RTI International Metals, titanium, electron-beam furnace, Pratt & Whitney, United Technologies, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — Titanium capacity utilization at RTI International Metals Inc. has dropped sharply from earlier this year, but it’s not all bad news for the producer.

Before Pittsburgh-based RTI’s new electron-beam (EB) furnace came on-stream, "we were almost at full capacity," vice chairwoman, president and chief executive officer Dawne S. Hickton noted during a recent earnings conference call.

"Now that we’re on, clearly we have more capacity," she said, referring to the new furnace, which is located at the company’s RTI Alloys unit in Canton, Ohio.

Hickton estimated RTI’s overall capacity utilization at 60 to 70 percent with the new furnace included. She pointed out that RTI as of the end of June had produced 1 million pounds of material in the EB furnace, which has annual capacity of 8 million pounds.

Internal consumption of the furnace’s output is due to begin in the current quarter, "and correspondingly, we expect to see improving operational performance comparable to the first half of 2013," Hickton said.

The company has mill product capacity of 22 million to 23 million pounds per year at its Niles, Ohio, facility, where it houses its vacuum-arc remelt (VAR) capacity; and 14 million pounds per year at its $135-million plant in Martinsville, Va., where the company began commercial production at its new forging cell last year (, Oct. 12).

Based on RTI’s expected mill product shipments this year of about 16.5 million pounds, and on its normalized product mix, its annual capacity could now be estimated at about 25.5 million pounds.

The Martinsville facility was originally designed to also include rolling capacity, but Hickton said it would be a "couple of years" before it was installed.

The EB furnace is a key element in RTI’s drive to reclaim a larger share of the aircraft engine market, which previously had accounted for no more than 20 percent of its aerospace business vs. airframe applications. The furnace’s output of rotor-quality titanium will support an agreement to supply the Pratt & Whitney division of East Hartford, Conn.-based United Technologies Corp., RTI’s first long-term supply contract with an original equipment engine manufacturer (, June 17), Hickton noted.

RTI expects the contract to support Pratt’s new family of geared turbofan jet engines to bring in more than $100 million.

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