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Production ramps up for Aluminum-Lithium Alloys

By Advanced Manufacturing Media

Aleris announces in December a new casting facility for Al-Li alloy. This follows announcement in June by Rio Tinto of production increase of its AIRWARE aluminum-lithium plant.Aleris announced in a Dec. 12 release that it would build a specialized casting facility for aluminum-lithium plate and sheet products. The facility will be built at its Koblenz, Germany plant, expanding the company’s ability to meet the needs of the aerospace market. Aluminum-lithium alloys enable aircraft manufacturers to increase fuel efficiency by reducing weight. They also maintain the strength, and corrosion and fatigue resistance expected of an aluminum plane.

The new facility will be able to cast full-scale ingots for trials as well as for serial production of aluminum-lithium products. The design of the facility also will facilitate the development of new “conventional” alloys, the company reports. Aleris expects to begin production in the new casting facility in the first quarter of 2013.“The caster is an important enhancement of our capabilities, particularly for producing aluminum-lithium alloys to reduce weight and fuel consumption in aircraft,” said Roeland Baan, Aleris executive vice president and chief executive officer, Europe and Asia, in the release. “Adding this new caster also strengthens our research and development capabilities by enabling more sophisticated alloy development and the production of full-size trial products for any new alloy.”

While currently a supplier of a range of aluminum products to the aerospace industry, Aleris is building this plant in expectation of supplying future aluminum-lithium products to the industry.

(Source: www.aleris.com)

Tinto announced a 50% increase in capacity for the Airware product at its Dubuc plant in Quebec.AIRWARE includes lithium in its alloying mix. In July 2010, Alcan Global Aerospace (Now Constellium) announced that the Airbus A350-XWB and the Bombardier CSeries would be using its Airware product. Airbus will use Airware metal sheets and forged parts to manufacture the key structural elements of the wings of A350-XWB. Bombardier will use it fo fuselage skin, stringer, and frame and floor plates on its commercial CSeries planes, according to Constellium.

(Source: Rio Tinto Dubuc Works)

There are number of advantages that derive from Aluminum-Lithium’s properties, according to Alcoa’s Tony Morales, Global Marketing Director, Aerospace Aluminum, speaking at the American Metal Market’s Aerospace Materials Conference in May 2011. “Specifically, aircraft fuselage designs can now be enhanced with metallics to provide higher pressure, higher humidity, and with the structural integrity to offer larger windows,” he said. “Additionally, we can take these same material and design advances to the wing, where new properties and structural technologies allow for the high aspect ratio wings so critical to improved aerodynamics on tomorrow’s planes.” Alcoa delivers its 2099 Al-Li alloy to current production of Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

According to data supplied by Alcoa, each 1% weight addition of Lithium to Aluminum reduces density by 3% and increases modulus (stiffness) by 6%. Aluminum-Lithium as an alloy is not new. “Aluminum-Lithium has been under development for almost 30 years,” remarked Morales.

(Source: Interview with AeroDef eNews.)

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