Farnborough Air Show

Alcan treads lightly with new alloys for C Series, A350

 - July 19, 2010, 8:38 AM

Aluminum maker Alcan Global Aerospace has won two major contracts on the new Airbus A350 XWB and the Bombardier C Series aircraft for which it will supply light alloys from its new Airware range. Airware combines technologies and services to improve metal performance, reduce cost and facilitate recycling. The contracts allow Alcan (Hall 3 Stand B26a) to invest approximately $55 million in upgrading its facilities in Issoire and Voreppe, France.

For Airbus, the company will supply light alloys, such as aluminum-lithium, for A350 wing structural parts, CEO Christophe Villemin told AIN. The materials will be in the form of sheets and extrusions. For Bombardier, it will provide Airware plates, some of them pre-machined, for the C Series’ fuselage.

Airware is based on aluminum alloys that include other metals, such as lithium (the lightest metal in nature), silver, copper and magnesium. Lithium has been used in aerospace before, but only marginally and not on major parts, according to Villemin. “These alloys combine lightness, fatigue resistance and performance” and resist corrosion better than other alloys, he said. Moreover, they can be machined to have different thicknesses across their section, which can translate into 20- to 30-percent weight savings on a given part and result in lower costs.

Villemin said Airware products can “live in hybrid environments,” meaning they have no problem being nearby other materials–titanium or composites, for example. Alcan has also worked on recyclability and claims Airware alloys can be recycled at 100 percent.

The Issoire and Voreppe facilities will benefit from a major investment, beginning in 2012. Issoire will become the first foundry in the world able to mass-produce aluminum-lithium, Villemin claimed. Voreppe, the research-and-development site, will receive new equipment and become a training center for the new Airware technologies.