US aluminum giant Alcoa, betting on strong growth in aircraft demand, on Thursday opened the world's largest plant producing aluminum-lithium alloys for the aerospace industry.
Based in Lafayette, Indiana, the plant will produce advanced aluminum-lithium alloys, which are lighter, stronger and less expensive than titanium and composites used in aircraft production, providing better fuel efficiency and lower maintenance costs, the company said.
"The future of aviation is being built with aluminum-lithium, and Alcoa is making big moves to capture that demand," Klaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.
"This state-of-the-art facility positions Alcoa as the world's premier aluminum-lithium supplier, offering the broadest portfolio of aluminum-lithium components for next-generation aircraft."
The company said it hads aluminum-lithium contracts worth $100 million for 2017.
The new plant is capable of producing more than 20,000 tonnes (44 million pounds) of aluminum-lithium annually.
It will be able to make the world's largest aluminum-lithium ingots -- about 50 percent larger than the nearest rival and "big enough to make any single-piece component on today's aircraft."
Alcoa produces aluminum-lithium components for European aircraft maker Airbus's A380 and A350 jetliners and US rival Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, as well as the Gulfstream G650 business jet.
In July, Alcoa announced a 10-year, $1.1 billion agreement with Pratt & Whitney for state-of the art engine components, including the forging of the first-ever aluminum fan blade for the company's new PurePower jet engines.
The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Alcoa also is developing the first aluminum-lithium forging for a front fan blade for the PurePower engines.