There’s an old adage that the smart suppliers build capacity when demand is weak. There are several reasons. For one, costs of construction materials and supplies are low. More importantly, you’re ready to supply customers when demand rebounds. Few companies are brave enough to do it. Directors want costs kept low and financial reserves high.
One company that followed the adage during the downturn of 2008-2009 (and now reaping the benefits) is Carpenter Technology of Wyomissing, PA. The company expanded its premium melt capacity by 40 percent with a $115 million plant that came on line in 2009. Fastener capacity has also been expanded.
“The decision to complete capacity expansion in our premium melt area during the downturn is proving successful,” says Bill Wulfsohn, CEO of Carpenter Technology. He made the comments in a recent briefing with analysts.
Aerospace sales were $196 million in the most recently completed quarter, up 26 percent. Energy market sales increased 146 percent.
What does it mean to design engineers? Leadtimes for nickel and titanium alloys are already extended toward the end of this year. Make sure that your requirements for critical materials are covered in long-term contracts, especially for premium metals. The smart guys, like Boeing, were locking up requirements for titanium alloys during the recession. Roughly half of Carpenter Technology’s business is covered by long-term agreements, but the percentage goes to 65-75 percent for premium materials. Customers are pushing the company to expand capacity to meet future demand.
A recent report sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) focuses on emerging gasification technologies for converting waste into energy and fuel on a large scale and saving it from the landfill. Some of that waste includes non-recycled plastic.
Capping a 30-year quest, GE Aviation has broken ground on the first high-volume factory for producing commercial jet engine components from ceramic matrix composites. The plant will produce high-pressure turbine shrouds for the LEAP Turbofan engine.
Seismic shifts in 3D printing materials include an optimization method that reduces the material needed to print an object by 85 percent, research designed to create new, stronger materials, and a new ASTM standard for their mechanical properties.
A recent study finds that 3D printing is both cheaper and greener than traditional factory-based mass manufacturing and distribution. At least, it's true for making consumer plastic products on open-source, low-cost RepRap printers.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.