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February 2006 edition

Price of titanium still sky-high – but for how long?

By Daniel Cook

The price of titanium climbed into uncharted territory in 2005, but airframe manufacturers who use the material should take comfort. Signs are that it will fall sooner rather than later.

Experts on the metal say the titanium industry is at last addressing the shortage of titanium smelting capacity, meaning the price is likely to drop back to pre-2003 levels by the end of 2006.

Welcome news, not only for many aircraft manufacturers but also for their suppliers and partners. About half of the titanium produced globally goes into civil and military aircraft.

Over the last 12-18 months, the aircraft industry has been caught between a rock and a hard place. There are no proven alternatives to titanium in a number of airframe applications, and in any case the money and time it would take to shift to another material means the industry has been forced to grit its teeth, and wait for the price to fall.

Roger Hopper of Titanium International, a unit of the second-biggest US titanium manufacturer Allegheny, said: “Titanium has never ever been at this price level. Some say it will stay at this price for more than a year. But people who have been in the industry the longest feel it will start to ease in the next year and things will come into balance.”

The surge in demand for titanium is not just aerospace-led; the versatile material has numerous applications, and an upturn in aerospace demand has coincided with other projects.

Hopper reiterated that the price crisis would be solved n....

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