Speakers at the International Titanium Association’s Titanium USA 2019 conference in Mobile, Alabama, held 22–25 September, included Jeffrey Carpenter, Supply Chain Strategy Director of Commodities at Boeing. Carpenter underlined the continued strength of the fundamental drivers of growth in the commercial aerospace market, which is expected to see 20,600 new aircraft delivered over the 2019–2028 period.
Whilst this growth is expected to see titanium demand increase, Carpenter noted that titanium is the most expensive material used in aircraft manufacture and warned that this high cost may encourage substitution for other materials in component design where possible. Suppliers were urged to continue striving to reduce costs with the concluding message being “titanium buys its way onto an airplane and earns the privilege to stay”.
He highlighted the benefits of vertical integration, with suppliers who control production capacity at more points along the supply chain likely to have an efficiency advantage over less integrated producers. Investment in capacity and maintenance of existing supply chain assets was also encouraged in order to alleviate bottlenecks and prevent supply disruption.
The high cost of aerospace-grade, titanium alloy mill products makes it unsurprising that OEMs are keen to encourage titanium producers to continue to target improved efficiency to keep costs down.
Titanium is often the material of choice in aerospace applications due to its excellent strength to weight ratio and, whilst it may be desirable to seek substitutions in certain applications, this is not necessarily straight-forward, particularly for aircraft incorporating carbon fibre reinforced polymer in their frames. Titanium has compatible thermal expansion characteristics and does not undergo galvanic corrosion when the two materials are used in conjunction with each other, unlike some other metals.
Comments around the need for capacity investments also suggest that titanium demand in aerospace is expected to remain strong and there have been reports of further increases in lead times on certain aerospace mill products such as alloy sheet which, for some producers, are understood to stand at over 70 weeks.
Laurent Jara, Vice President Metallic Materials Procurement at Airbus also spoke at the event. He reiterated the message of strong and resilient commercial air traffic growth but also talked about the importance of informed titanium demand forecasting in order to avoid over or under supply issues resulting from bullwhip effects along the supply chain.
Roskill’s Titanium Metal: Outlook to 2029 was published in August 2019. Click here to download the brochure and sample pages, or to access further information.