Alcoa Expands in Virginia and Indiana To Meet Demand for Next-Gen Aircraft Engine Parts
Alcoa is expanding in Virginia to capture demand for next-generation aircraft engine parts. The company is investing $25 million at its Alcoa Power and Propulsion facility in Hampton to scale-up a breakthrough process technology that cuts the weight of its highest-volume jet engine blades by 20 percent and significantly improves aerodynamic performance.
"We are deploying a state-of-the-art technology that will significantly improve the performance of some of the best-selling jet engines in the world," said Alcoa Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld. "This technology and investment further demonstrate how Alcoa is executing on our strategy to aggressively capture demand in the fast-growing aerospace market."
Alcoa will add equipment for a new production line and modify existing machinery at the Hampton facility to produce the blades. It will use the latest in advanced manufacturing technology such as robotics and digital x-ray for enhanced product inspection. The expansion began in June and is expected to be complete by the fourth quarter of 2015. Alcoa expects to add at least 75 new, full-time employees over three years.
Alcoa developed its process technology, called enhanced equiax (EEQ) casting, following five years of research and development at the Alcoa Power and Propulsion Research Center in Whitehall, Mich. The Alcoa Technical Center, the world's largest light metals research and development center based outside of Pittsburgh, Pa., also supported this work. Made primarily using nickel-based superalloys, the lighter and more aerodynamically efficient blades can be used to retrofit existing or build next-generation aircraft engines, such as the latest engines for large commercial aircraft, including narrow- and wide-body airplanes. Engines for narrow-body aircraft are among the top selling jet engines in the world. Alcoa will receive approximately $2 million in state and local incentives and an additional $1.3 million exemption on sales and use tax for selecting Hampton, Virginia for this investment.
Alcoa's Hampton facility currently employs 650 people who operate two production lines that produce turbine blades for the power generation market and large nickel and titanium structural castings for aerospace engines. In addition, the Alcoa Fastening Systems business has a sales office in Leesburg and Alcoa's Building and Construction Systems business has a drafting and engineering support office in Harrisonburg.
New Indiana capacity broadens reach
into large commercial jet engine market
In May, Alcoa broke ground on its state-of-the-art, $100-million aerospace expansion in La Porte, Ind., where it will produce nickel-based superalloy jet engine parts, creating 329 jobs by 2019. The new 320,000-sq.-ft. (29,700-sq.-m.) facility will expand Alcoa's reach from structural engine components for business and regional jets to large commercial aircraft, including narrow- and wide-body and military airplanes. Engines for narrow-body aircraft are among the top selling jet engines in the world.
The plant will increase Alcoa's capacity to supply engines for narrow-body aircraft and enable it to produce parts nearly 60 percent larger than components it makes today, expanding its market reach to wide-body airplanes. These components are used in the compression and hot sections of the engine.
Construction of the plant is under way and is expected to be complete by the fourth quarter of 2015. Customer contracts underpin the new capacity. The facility will use the latest in high-tech advanced manufacturing equipment, including digital x-ray for real-time quality assurance, 3D printing of prototypes, blue light technology for more comprehensive dimensional inspection data, and automated casting furnaces with advanced controls to meet precise product specifications.
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered Alcoa up to $4 million in conditional tax credits based on the company's job creation plans. In addition, the city of La Porte has approved tax incentives worth $7.1 million over a 10-year period.
This is the second major aerospace investment by Alcoa in Indiana in two years. In 2012, Alcoa announced construction of a $90-million, greenfield state-of-the-art
aluminum lithium facility at its Lafayette operations. The facility is on schedule to open later this year and will be capable of producing upwards of 20,000 metric tons of Alcoa's patented aluminum-lithium alloys used to build dramatically lighter and lower-cost airplanes versus composite alternatives.