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Alcoa begins construction on $100M facility to produce nickel-based structural components for jet engines; digital x-ray, 3D printing and robotics

Alcoa broke ground on a $100-million expansion in La Porte, Indiana where it will produce nickel-based superalloy jet engine parts. The new 320,000-square-foot 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 facility will use 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 plant will increase Alcoa’s capacity to supply engines for narrow-body aircraft. It also will enable Alcoa to produce parts nearly 60% 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. Alcoa is already the global leader in jet engine airfoils.

Construction of the plant is underway and is expected to be complete by the fourth quarter of 2015. Customer contracts underpin the new capacity.

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation has offered Alcoa up to $4 million in conditional tax credits based on the 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 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 lighter and lower-cost airplanes versus composite alternatives.

Alcoa’s aerospace business 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). EPS and GRP accounted for 58% of Alcoa’s first quarter 2014 revenues and 76% of total segment after-tax operating income.

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