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Carbon fiber use said benefiting Alcoa

Keywords: Tags  aluminum, carbon fiber-reinforced plastic, CFRP, Alcoa, William F. Oplinger, body-in-white, Ford Motor, automotive F-150

NEW YORK — Alcoa Inc. expects to benefit from the increased use of composite materials in the aerospace sector due to the company’s strong position in fastening systems and propulsion technology, according to executive vice president and chief financial officer William F. Oplinger.

"(We) actually benefit from higher revenues on the non-aluminum planes because of our positioning on fastening systems and power and propulsion," Oplinger said at Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s annual Global Metals, Mining and Steel Conference in Miami. "So it is not a bad thing for Alcoa that the planes are multi-material. In fact, it gives us opportunities for fastening solutions that we haven’t had before."

Alcoa’s fastening systems unit—which accounts for 30 percent of its aerospace revenue—is comprised of systems that range from high-temperature, high-strength fasteners for airframe and engine applications to latches, installation tool systems and machine components, such as hydraulic fittings.

Planes featuring carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) body structures—including Toulouse, France-based Airbus SAS’ A350 XWB, which features 105-foot wings made almost exclusively from CFRP—provide significant revenue for Alcoa, largely due to the company’s materials diversification within the sector, Oplinger said.

Sixty percent of Alcoa’s Engineered Products & Solutions business revenue is “non-aluminum,” Oplinger said, adding that the company’s fastening systems were mostly comprised of titanium, steel and nickel alloys.

Turning to the automotive sector, Oplinger said that Pittsburgh-based Alcoa anticipates explosive aluminum demand over the next decade. "Body-in-white is the next transition for automotive and it will drive significant growth in aluminum usage over the next 10 to 12 years," he said. "We’re showing a 60-percent increase in the intensity of aluminum usage in cars between now and 2025 due to the body-in-white transition that’s going on."

Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford Motor Co.’s move to an aluminum body for the F-150 pickup truck—which typically has sales in excess of 750,000 vehicles per year—has created a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" for the aluminum industry, Oplinger said, noting that the company plans to invest $300 million at its plant in Alcoa, Tenn., to meet spiking automotive demand. That’s up from an initially planned investment of $275 million (, May 2, 2013).

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