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Alcan's R&D reinvents aluminium based solutions to respond to the new challenges of the aerospace industry

Alcan Global Aerospace Transportation and Industry (Global ATI), a business unit of Alcan Engineered Products, presents its capabilities at Voreppe R&D centre to the press for the first time ever today, providing an exceptional insight into its research activity, from accelerated alloy development to testing advanced aluminium solutions, to better service the aerospace industry.

Alcan Global ATI is a leading provider of aluminium solutions for the civil, commercial and defence aerospace markets worldwide. The company plays a pivotal role in developing state-of-the-art new generations of aluminium alloys, but also on adding value to the whole supply chain with specific solutions such as pre-machining for improved buy to fly ratio, as well as recycling to improve environmental impact through the complete life cycle of an aircraft.

"Our R&D efforts have a direct impact on aircraft programs. More than twenty new Alcan alloys responding to specific property requirements were developed and are used in the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787", explained Christophe Villemin, President of Alcan Global ATI . "For example, compared with incumbent alloys, typical property improvements of 10 to 20% were achieved in strength and damage tolerance."

"The worldwide aerospace industry needs to meet strategic environmental challenges economically", continued Christophe Villemin. "Our unique R&D expertise allows us to build long-term partnerships with major aerospace companies, to help them develop and competitively manufacture aircraft that are more efficient, safer and greener".

Aluminium, that for almost 100 years has proven to be a safe and extremely reliable material, continues to be the material of choice for many demanding aerospace applications, yet with an increased emphasis on lightweight and more corrosion-resistant solutions. To adjust to the aerospace economic drivers, more aluminium alloys were developed in the last ten years than in the previous three decades, providing significant performance gains for the entire industry. Today, Alcan Global ATI is the sole producer of many advanced aerospace alloys, protected by more than 35 active patents. Recent efforts have been made to master the properties and the production process of new Low Density Aluminium alloys (containing among others Lithium) for both defence and commercial aircraft, which bring significant benefits in terms of weight-savings, mechanical properties and corrosion resistance. As an example, they will be used in damage tolerant fuselage sheets offering more than a 30% increase in strength, along with a 4% weight density reduction compared to previous alloys. As a result the total weight reduction potential is circa 15-20% more than incumbent alloys.

To further improve its offer, Alcan Global ATI  has developed new approaches in the areas of design and forming/joining processes which also participate to generate more weight saving and better damage tolerance. Illustration of their innovative approaches are solutions that avoid mechanical joining in some of the most critical parts of fuselage and wings, as well as the development of in-house monolithic parts displaying tailored variations of properties along their length.

To deliver such ambitious programs and to continue shaping the world's next generation programmes, Alcan Global ATI partners with most OEMs, including Commercial, Defence and Space players. Over 360 scientists, engineers and highly specialized technical staff work in two world-class R&D centres of Alcan Engineered Products in Voreppe, (France) and Neuhausen, (Switzerland). Alcan Global ATI relies as well on an extensive network of Universities worldwide, and has recently set up a unique partnership with the EPFL in Lausanne-CH to investigate the materials and processes of the future.

Alcan Global ATI employs 4,200 people and has manufacturing plants in Europe and North America.

Press release issued by Constellium Issoire on June 10, 2009


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