Arconic has installed the world's largest aluminum plate stretcher at its Davenport Works plant, expanding its capabilities for the aerospace and industrial markets, the company announced Tuesday.
Dubbed the Very Thick Plate Stretcher project, Arconic said the equipment, now online, will allow it to produce highly differentiated plate — improving the performance of thick aluminum and aluminum-lithium plate. The stretching process reduces stress introduced into the plate as part of the manufacturing process, resulting in a part that is more easily machined and processed by customers, the company said.
According to Arconic, the nearly $150 million stretcher project was completed on time and about $40 million under its initial $190 million budget. The project first was announced in November 2014 by Alcoa Inc., which split into two companies Nov. 1, 2016.
"We made this investment because we saw where our customer requirements were going,'' Rob Woodall, Arconic's vice president of operations, said in a video about the expansion. "Since we made the investment we backed it up with customer contracts."
Airbus is among the new contracts. It became the company's first aerospace customer to include material from the new stretcher in the $1 billion contract announced last fall. The new stretcher also will produce material for part of an agreement with AMI Metals with Lockheed Martin for production of the Joint Strike Fighter.
The company said the stretcher not only enables Arconic to service the existing plate market for aerospace, but also will allow airframe builders to make large wing ribs, fuselage frames and bulkheads in new sizes and thickness. For industrial customers, the stretcher can make some of the thickest, longest and widest plate for plastics manufacturing molds and on manufacturing chambers for the consumer electronics and semiconductor industries.
"This stretcher gives us capabilities that none of our competitors have,'' Woodall said. "We can stretch up to 12-inch thick plate and up to 35 million pounds of pull force."
He said the new stretcher already has set world records for the heaviest plate ever stretched and the most pull-force ever used on a plate.
Arconic said the equipment is the largest aluminum plate stretcher ever manufactured in the world.
"This investment was made to expand Arconic’s leadership in the aerospace market and create profitable growth in attractive industrial markets," Arconic Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld said in a news release.
Kleinfeld applauded the Davenport Works team "who delivered this massive project on time and $40 million under budget.”
Davenport Works now is in the process of commissioning the stretcher to begin qualifying material for its customers. The first product shipments are expected to begin in the fourth quarter to aerospace customers and the second quarter to industrial customers.