As a part of its continued expansion into the aerospace sector, lightweight metals specialist, Alcoa, last Thursday officially opened its new US jet engine parts manufacturing facility in La Porte, Indiana.
The company, which last year bought Sheffield-based aerospace company Firth Rixson, has now doubled its capacity in La Porte and the new Alcoa Power and Propulsion facility will provide fresh capabilities that broaden Alcoa market focus to now include large commercial aircraft.
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Innovation is at the heart of the La Porte expansion,” said Alcoa Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld. “We combined some of the world’s best metallurgists, product engineers and manufacturing experts to broaden our capabilities and deliver the highly advanced components our customers need to build jet engines at high volumes.”
The approximately $100 million, 320,000-square-foot expansion, announced last year, enables Alcoa to manufacture single piece structural parts—components that encase the rotating parts of an engine—that are nearly 60 percent larger than those already produced in La Porte. These new capabilities have broadened Alcoa’s reach into wide- and narrow-body aircraft engines. As an example, the new facility will supply structural components for the PurePower and other engines under a 10-year, $1.1bn contract with Pratt & Whitney announced last year. The La Porte facility also is partnering with other major aerospace engine manufacturers and their partners to supply parts for next-generation engine programs.
The facility employs the latest in high-tech, advanced manufacturing equipment, including digital x-ray and blue light technology for enhanced quality assurance. It also 3D-prints resin patterns for metallic prototypes and uses automated casting furnaces with advanced controls to meet precise product specifications.
The plant grows Alcoa’s value-add business in the soaring aerospace market and complements Alcoa’s acquisition of TITAL, which established titanium structural casting capabilities in Europe, and expanded its aluminium casting capacity. Alcoa is the world leader in jet engine blades and vanes, and through the La Porte expansion and TITAL acquisition, is becoming a leader in structural parts.
Ribbon Cutting at Alcoa plant
Indiana Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann and other state and local dignitaries today are joining Alcoa executives, employees and aerospace customers to celebrate the opening of the plant which will create 329 jobs by 2019. The facility has already added 155 of those positions.
“Alcoa is building on our state’s advanced manufacturing leadership, as well as providing increased opportunities for high quality careers for our community,” said Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann. “Alcoa is one of several aerospace companies choosing to expand in the Hoosier State, together announcing plans to invest more than $900 million and create more than 1,200 new jobs in the coming years.”
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation has 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.
“The City of La Porte is proud to celebrate this plant expansion with the Alcoa Team,” said La Porte Mayor Blair Milo. “This advanced facility grows our partnership with Alcoa and creates advanced manufacturing job opportunities for our community. We are excited to build on our partnership with Alcoa as it continues to enjoy growth and success.”
Alcoa in Indiana
Alcoa employs approximately 3,200 people at three locations in Indiana.
This is Alcoa’s second plant opening in Indiana in just over a year. In October 2014, the Company announced the opening of its $90 million greenfield state-of-the-art aluminum-lithium facility—the largest in the world—in Lafayette, Indiana. The Lafayette cast house can produce more than 20,000 metric tons (44 million pounds) of aluminum-lithium annually. Aircraft manufacturers are increasingly turning to lighter and stronger aluminum-lithium alloys, which are less expensive than composites and enable increased fuel efficiency and lower maintenance costs.
Alcoa has been growing its multi-material aerospace business to capture growth in the global aerospace market in support of its broader transformation, and has become a leader in jet engine components and aircraft structures. Alcoa acquired global titanium leader RTI International Metals, aerospace components manufacturer TITAL and global jet engine parts leader Firth Rixson. On a pro forma basis, Alcoa’s 2014 aerospace revenues reached $5.6 billion following these acquisitions, making it one of the world’s largest aerospace parts manufacturers.