Aluminum-lithium is a large revenue stream for Alcoa (IW 1000/198), which has contracted $100 million in revenues for the light weight metal for 2017. In order to meet that demand the company announced on Oct. 2 it has opened the world’s largest aluminum-lithium plant in Lafayette, Ind.
The plant will produce advanced, third-generation aluminum-lithium alloys for the aerospace industry.
"The future of aviation is being built with aluminum-lithium, and Alcoa is making big moves to capture that demand,” said Klaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa CEO. “This state-of-the-art facility positions Alcoa as the world’s premier aluminum-lithium supplier, offering the broadest portfolio of aluminum-lithium components for next generation aircraft.”
To keep pace with demand, the company has also expanded its aluminum-lithium capabilities at the Alcoa Technical Center outside Pittsburgh, at its Kitts Green facility in the United Kingdom, and in Lafayette.
Alcoa’s Lafayette cast house, located next to its extrusion plant, can produce more than 20,000 metric tons (44 million pounds) of aluminum-lithium annually—making it the largest facility of its kind in the world. Alcoa’s materials scientists invented a majority of the alloys produced at the facility as well as the casting equipment and processing technology.
The company supplies a portfolio of aluminum-lithium products, including extruded, forged and rolled parts. The company has a significant position on the Airbus A380, Airbus A350, Boeing 787, and Gulfstream G650.
Alcoa produces single-piece wing skins, including for wide-body airplanes, fuselage skins, wing stringers, floor beams, seat tracks and other components. The company also is developing the first ever aluminum-lithium forging for a front fan blade for Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower engines.
The Lafayette facility is uniquely capable of making the world’s largest aluminum-lithium ingots—approximately 50% larger than the nearest competitor, Alcoa says, and big enough to make any single-piece component on today’s aircraft.
“Indiana is home to some of Alcoa’s most advanced facilities, including two that serve the growing, global aerospace industry,” said Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann. “Indiana is a ‘state that works’ for innovation in the aviation industry. Alcoa is building upon our state’s strong manufacturing tradition, creating even more good-paying jobs that will engage a skilled Indiana workforce.”
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), the city of Lafayette and Tippecanoe County provided various tax incentives. Together, the local and state incentives are worth more than $6.2 million.
Alcoa employs approximately 3,200 people at three locations in Indiana, more than in any other state.
This is Alcoa’s second aerospace announcement in Indiana in five months. In May, the company announced a $100 million expansion at its LaPorte facility where it will produce nickel-based superalloy jet engine parts. The expansion will create 329 jobs by 2019.