Alcoa Announces Technology Investment to Produce Lighter Jet Engine Blades

Leading aerospace manufacturer 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, Virginia 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.

From left to right: Boyd Mueller, Alcoa Vice President, Research and Technology; Hampton Mayor George Wallace,; Mike Pepper, President of Alcoa Power and Propulsion; Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe; Jack Bodner, Alcoa Hampton Vice President and General Manager; and Maurice Jones, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade.

“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. The Company will use the latest in advanced manufacturing technology such as robotics and digital x-ray for enhanced product inspection. The expansion will begin this month and is expected to be complete by the fourth quarter of 2015. The Company expects to add at least 75 new, full-time employees over three years.

Alcoa developed this process technology, called enhanced equiax (EEQ) casting, following five years of research and development at the Alcoa Power and Propulsion Research Center in Whitehall, MI. 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 has been a solid corporate institution in Hampton for 40 years, and this major investment in new technology and the launch of a new product line will ensure the longevity of its operation for decades to come,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe. “Advanced manufacturing is thriving in Virginia, and expansions like this help to diversify our economy and grow jobs of the 21st century. This project is a great testament to Alcoa’s commitment to Virginia, and the advantages of the Commonwealth’s top-rate business environment that helps valued global companies succeed.”

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 has been a longtime anchor employer in the City of Hampton. I am extremely pleased that Alcoa chose to expand in Hampton by adding a new advanced manufacturing product line that will generate high-paying jobs,” said Hampton Mayor George Wallace. “Hampton is an excellent city for new and expanding businesses. We are proud of our highly skilled workforce, friendly neighborhoods, excellent schools and quality of life that is incomparable.”

This investment supports Alcoa’s strategy of profitably growing its aerospace business, which had revenues totaling $4 billion in 2013. The Company holds leading market positions in aerospace forgings, extrusions, jet engine airfoils and fastening systems and is a leading supplier of structural castings made of titanium, aluminum and nickel-based superalloys, which are produced by its downstream business, Engineered Products and Solutions (EPS). The Company also holds leading market positions in aerospace sheet and plate produced by its midstream business, Global Rolled Products (GRP). The Company’s value-add businesses, comprising EPS and GRP, accounted for 58 percent of Alcoa's first quarter 2014 revenues and 76 percent of the Company’s total segment after-tax operating income.

Additional resources: Go to http://www.alcoa.com/hampton for more information, photos and b-roll.

Alcoa in Virginia
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.

Reinforcing Alcoa’s commitment to Virginia, and in celebration of the expansion, the Alcoa Foundation has agreed to grant $40,000 to a local nonprofit organization that supports the Alcoa Foundation’s goals of promoting education, including the development of advanced manufacturing skills and environmental sustainability. The Foundation expects to announce the organization that will receive the grant this summer.

Source: http://www.alcoa.com

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