build rates for the Boeing Dreamliner 787 are driving demand for fasteners.
titanium fastener materials is nearing its prior peak high of 2008," says William Wulfsohn,
CEO of Carpenter Technology, Wyomissing, PA.
"And finally, we are beginning to see order activity pick up for nickel
and stainless aerospace fasteners."
Dreamliner, a much-heralded composite-bodied aircraft,
was originally scheduled to enter service in May 2008. But the project has been
beleaguered by a myriad of design, supply chain and manufacturing problems,
starting with a shortage of fasteners.
The plane's maiden
flight took place on December 15, 2009, and Boeing hopes to receive final U.S.
Federal Aviation Administration flight certification this summer. The first
delivery will be made to All Nippon Airways this fall if all goes well. There
are currently 835 firm orders for the Dreamliner, making it one of the most
successful aircraft launches of all time.
analysts predict that Boeing will deliver six to 18 Dreamliners this year and hopes
to achieve a build rate of 10 planes a month by 2013, a record rate for a
controls production of composites through a closely monitored supply chain.
Carbon fiber and epoxy prepregs come from a tight relationship with Toray
Industries, which has been rapidly ramping
the composite components requires a large number of high-quality, lightweight
fasteners from suppliers such as Carpenter Technology
(ATI). It's a far cry from the traditional aircraft assembly
system in which thousands of rivets join pieces of aluminum sheet.
The 787 uses
eight times more titanium fasteners by weight than the 737, the aircraft has
been in the news recently because of apparent rivet failures
that caused aluminum structural problems in the roofs of Southwest jets.
stronger right now for the premium fasteners used to build aircraft engines
than for the fasteners used in assembly. Engine assembly precedes fuselage
supplies have been negatively affected in the last three years by speculation
in the supply chain. Some distributors bet on strong demand for the Dreamliner
in 2008 through 2010 and were burned when production was postponed multiple
As a result
there was a supply overhang that made it difficult for OEM suppliers to operate
executive vice president at Alcoa, says he expects
normal fastener demand for the 787 to resume later this year. Fasteners are
close to a billion dollar business ($868 million in 2010) at Alcoa.
currently sells four types
of titanium fasteners for aircraft applications, and is now qualifying a fifth
material, ATI 425, which has strength and ductility properties making it useful
for applications that require bending and forming.
to believe that the 787 will be one of the great innovations of our time," says
L. Patrick Hassey, CEO of ATI
"We also believe that Boeing will ramp production of this airplane as fast as
it can and that it will challenge the supply chain."
In yet one
more hiccup for the launch of the 787, the National Labor Relations Board
(NLRB) charged in a complaint this month that Boeing was retaliating illegally
against its largest union when it decided in 2009 to put a second Dreamliner
assembly line in a nonunion plant in South Carolina. Boeing said it will
"vigorously contest" the case and proceed with plans to start assembling
planes in Charleston, S.C. in July.