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Kobe Steel wins A350 titanium landing gear role

Keywords: Tags  titanium, forgings, Airbus A350, Kobe Steel, Japan Aeroforge, Bill Bihlman, Aerolytics, Alcoa Preciision Castparts

LOS ANGELES — Kobe Steel Ltd. will supply titanium forgings to the Messier-Bugatti-Dowty unit of France’s Safran SA for the main landing gear of Airbus SAS’ A350 XWB (extra wide body) airliner.

Japan Aeroforge Ltd., a joint venture established in 2011 by Kobe and five other companies, will produce the forgings. The A350 role is Japan Aeroforge’s largest job to date, a Kobe spokesman told AMM via e-mail.

Tokyo-based Kobe declined to disclose financial details of the contract or the amount of titanium involved. The weight and size of the individual forgings, or their alloys, also was not revealed. Toulouse, France-based Airbus’ A350 XWB is due to enter service late this year or early 2015.

Kobe will design the forged products, while Japan Aeroforge will make the forgings from billets, after which they will be sent to Kobe’s Takasago Works in western Japan for heat treatment, machining and inspection before being shipped to Messier-Bugatti-Dowty, the spokesman said.

Japan Aeroforge is equipped with a 50,000-ton hydraulic forging press, one of a limited number of presses of this size globally that are targeting a growing requirement for the titanium forgings for wide-body aircraft in landing gear applications historically served by such steel alloys as 300M.

"There’s a shortage of capacity, particularly for very large forgings," Bill Bihlman, president of South Bend, Ind.-based consulting firm Aerolytics LLC, said.

Bihlman cited two aerospace presses of 50,000 tons or more in the United States: Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Inc.’s press in Cleveland, and Portland, Ore.-based Precision Castparts Corp.’s Wyman-Gordon Co. unit in Grafton, Mass. Industry sources expect Meinerzhagen, Germany-based Otto Fuchs KG to build a third at its Weber Metals Inc. unit in Paramount, Calif. (, Feb. 28).

Russia’s VSMPO-Avisma Corp. and Alcoa each have 75,000-ton presses in Russia, while Paris-based Eramet SA’s Aubert & Duval unit in France operates a forge in the 70,000-ton range, Bihlman noted.

Forging capacity occupies a larger part of the titanium supply chain than most other metals, according to industry sources, who estimate 65 percent or more of the titanium in an aircraft goes through a press.

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