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Specialty Alloys and the Airliner War

Posted January 19, 2011 8:30 AM by Steve Melito

Boeing is planning to build nearly 31,000 airplanes over the next 20 years. Airbus estimates similar demand for its passenger jets and freight haulers. These corporate combatants in the world's "Airliner War" have their differences, of course, but both understand that jet engines require specialty metals – and lots of them. In especially complex and efficient jet engine designs, specialty alloys made of titanium, nickel and other metals account for 95% of the total weight. Superalloys for turbine blades are also an important part of the aerospace supply chain.

As the global economy improves, the aircraft industry will need over 2.5-million more jet engines in 2013 than in 2010. For a metals industry that's more than ready for the Great Recession to end, the projected surge in demand is heady news. Already, specialty metals suppliers such as ATI and Carpenter Technology are boosting their production capacities. According to industry experts, demand will be driven not only by the fast-growing economies of China and India, but also by the desire of North American and European airlines to purchase more fuel-efficient jet engines.

Long before design flaws and production problems delayed the Boeing 787 program, however, a shortage of aerospace fasteners plagued the next-generation airliner. Even with the efforts of companies like ATI and Carpenter Technology, could a shortage of specialty alloys tip the balance of power in the Airliner War?

Source: Design News and Flightglobal

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Re: Specialty Alloys and the Airliner War

01/20/2011 11:12 AM

You forget to mention the burgeoning Brazilian and Japanese aerospace industries throw into this mix.

Yes, these metal alloy shortages will become increasing frequent, possibly leading to trade wars if not actual hot wars over acquiring the raw materials need to produce the innards of jet engines.

It is high time that our nation develop high tech alternatives to these alloys, such as advanced ceramics and other readily available materials to be incorporated into jet engines. We need to become self-reliant once more and rely less on other nations.

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