Aerospace supplier invests $22M in plant


Alcoa is investing $22 million in its Whitehall plant for Hot Isostatic Pressing, or HIP, technology, which strengthens the metallic structure of titanium, nickel and 3D-printed jet engine parts. Courtesy Alcoa

A metals supplier to jet engine makers will invest $22 million in its West Michigan operation in an effort to keep up with increasing demand from the aerospace industry.

New York-based Alcoa Inc. announced yesterday it will add Hot Isostatic Pressing, or HIP, technology at its Alcoa Power and Propulsion facility in Whitehall.

Alcoa Power and Propulsion is a business unit of Alcoa Engineered Products and Solutions. The unit is headquartered in Whitehall.

Increasing demand

The investment will enable Alcoa to capture growing demand for advanced titanium, nickel and 3D-printed parts for the world’s bestselling jet engines.

Alcoa said "steep ramp-up rates for narrow- and wide-body aircraft engines, the top-selling jet engines in the world," are increasing the need for such capabilities.

The new technology should be ready for product qualification in 2016, according to Alcoa officials.

This investment will expand Alcoa’s capabilities even further, enabling it to process its largest jet engine parts in house.

Expansions in LaPorte, Ind., and Hampton, Va. and by expanding its 3D printing capabilities, have precipitated the need for increasing HIP capabilities.

With this investment, Alcoa will be able to process any cast jet engine product in its current portfolio.

The city of Whitehall has approved a 12-year tax exemption valued at more than $1 million.

HIP technology

Alcoa already owns and operates one of the world’s largest HIP technology complexes for aerospace.

HIP involves the simultaneous application of high pressure and temperatures to significantly improve the mechanical properties and quality of cast products, such as blades and structures for jet engines.

In addition, the process increases the density of 3D-printed parts made using powdered metals, improving product consistency, strength and lifespan.

Alcoa officials said all titanium, 3D-printed and some nickel parts used for jet engines must be treated using the HIP process.

Alcoa’s eight other HIP production systems are also located in Whitehall, where it has a concentration of engineering and technical resources.

Value-added strategy

The $22-million investment supports Alcoa’s strategy to build its value-added business for profitable growth and greater innovation in the aerospace market.

The company expects robust global aerospace sales growth of 9 to 10 percent in 2015 driven by strong deliveries across the large commercial aircraft, regional jet and business jet segments.

Alcoa Power and Propulsion is expected to generate $2.2 billion in revenues by 2016 as a result of its organic growth expansions.

“As aerospace growth soars, Alcoa continues to invest in the latest technologies, creating added capacity to capture fast-growing demand,” said Olivier Jarrault, EVP and Alcoa Group president for engineered products and solutions.

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