LOS ANGELES Weber Metals Inc. is in line to install the largest aerospace press in North America as it takes aim at a growing market for big forgings, industry sources said.
Paramount, Calif.-based Weber has been tentatively selected by German parent Otto Fuchs KG as the site for a 56,000-ton press, these sources said. Webers largest press is currently rated at 33,000 tons, according to its website.
Weber declined to comment on these reports. Sources previously said Otto Fuchs was in the process of deciding whether to locate the equipment at Weber or its German operations.
The press would be the third rated at 50,000 tons or more in North America. The Wyman-Gordon Co. unit of Precision Castparts Corp. in North Grafton, Mass., and Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Inc.s press in Cleveland each are rated at 50,000 tons.
The new press at Weber would produce forgings from aluminum, titanium and nickel-based alloys such as 718. The latter is a new material for the California company, although Otto Fuchs supplies nickel alloy forgings from its facility in Meinerzhagen, Germany, sources said.
In contrast to some other major end markets for metals, a disproportionately large amount of aerospace products make their way through forging presses, industry observers said. This is believed to be especially true of titanium, where an estimated 65 to 75 percent of aerospace alloyseven sheet and platebecome forgings at one point on their way to finished products.
Weber said in 2010 that its titanium forgings, which then represented about 30 percent of its business, could ultimately reach 60 percent (amm.com, July 29, 2010).
The new press would open up some untapped markets for Weber, which in 2010 added a 3,300-ton Wepuko Pahnke Engineering LP press that gave it the in-house ability to convert ingot into forging billet. Among these potential new markets are big discs for the larger engines being built for the latest generation of commercial aircraft and large landing gear components that it doesnt currently produce, although it already supplies smaller forgings in support of the landing gear market.
The addition of the big press would put Weber in a select group, judging by the recent remarks of one Alcoa executive. Olivier Jarrault, executive vice president and group president of Alcoas engineered products and solutions division, highlighted its ability to supply big forgings during an early February presentation to Wall Street analysts. He described the 50,000-ton Cleveland press as one of the two largest in the United States, presumably with Wyman-Gordons press being the other.
"We dont make small parts," Jarrault boasted about the big Cleveland press, pointing out that it supplies 17-foot-long aluminum bulkheads for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike fighter that weigh 4,040 pounds apiece. "We forge the largest parts in the world."