Canadian Manufacturing

Lightweight aircraft design driving growth for titanium fasteners

Orders on the rise since 2011; demand expected to double.



SAN JOSE, CALIF.—Titanium is projected to be the material of choice for aerospace fasteners through to 2018, according to a July report from Global Industry Analysts Inc. (GIA), called Aerospace Fasteners: A Global Strategic Business Report.

Manufacturers of commercial airliners are driving the trend, as they aim to produce stronger and lighter aircraft.

“The current global demand for titanium fasteners is expected to double over the near term, mainly due to the advantage of a favourable strength-to-weight ratio when compared to the ferrous, aluminum and nickel alloys, making it an ideal fastener material for both commercial and military airframe applications,” states the report.

Titanium fasteners have also found their way into jet and other engine support structures and aircraft landing gears.

When titanium fasteners were first introduced in the 1960s, they were used primarily for military aircraft. Now, commercial aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Bombardier are incorporating them into their designs. GIA says higher strength titanium alloys are currently under development specifically for use in aerospace applications.

“With technological advancements and development of novel manufacturing methods, the applications of this space-age material are likely to grow significantly.”

Overall, the global market for aerospace fasteners is expected to reach US$6.8 billion by 2018, according to GIA. Sales from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) were down in 2010 but in 2011, the aerospace fastener market started a slow recovery.

“The economic recession within the aerospace injury prolonged for three full years and weighed down significantly on several manufacturing industries, triggering a period of serious downslide in air travel and aircraft delivery volumes,” it said in the report.

“Major airline companies including Boeing and Airbus recorded a sharp decline in aircraft manufacturing.”

In 2011, orders increased from both commercial equipment suppliers and fastener distributors. As a result, fastener OEMs started stockpiling materials such as wire, bar and coil.

Taiwan and China are the largest net exporters of industrial-grade fasteners, GIA reports, largely due to their favourable export trade regulations and a large inexpensive labour pool. They’re also leveraging low manufacturing costs and cheaper raw materials.

Though they aren’t as advanced as their western counterparts, fastener OEMs in developing markets are focusing on closing the technology gap and aggressively building new products,

The Asia-Pacific market is expected to grow significantly, but the U.S. and Europe will continue to dominate the aerospace fastener industry over the next few years, GIA concluded.

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