Alcoa shipbuilding techniques save costs

March 7, 2012 at 2:50 PM
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NEW YORK, March 7 (UPI) -- Aluminum producer Alcoa, Inc. will see its advanced shipbuilding techniques paying off in an initial $2.1 million U.S. Navy contract.

Alcoa said the processes give the company an edge over competitors and saves procurement costs. The company also said the contract will enable it to develop advanced welding techniques that are seen likely to reduce costs of aluminum-intensive shipbuilding.

Alcoa has been working on improving defense uses of aluminum and alloys and, in a statement, said its involvement will "provide a critical advantage to the Navy, allowing ship builders to streamline manufacturing and build a better ship at a lower cost."

Alcoa's has been citing its "materials knowledge and technical expertise" as part of its effort to publicize the contract's implications.

Alcoa's Government Affairs team Technical Center in New Kensington, Pa., will collaborate on developing the program.

Alcoa will adapt high-deposition gas metal arc welding technology to marine structures, enabling the Navy to reduce the cost of shipbuilding. Total projected savings for the Navy could be as much as $200 million under current shipbuilding plans, the company said.

"With tightening government budgets and growing demands, this kind of project such plays an important role in helping our service men and women meet their mission requirements," Alcoa Vice President Public and Government Affairs Daniel Cruise said.

"Alcoa's Government Affairs, Alcoa Technical Center and Alcoa Defense teams are working together to make sure key leaders in government understand Alcoa's advantage in research and our manufacturing expertise."

High-deposition gas metal arc welding is a semi-automated welding process that reduces weld passes, reducing labor costs and improving weld quality.

The process will be applied to the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship and could also be transferred to the Joint High Speed Vessel and other aluminum-intensive ships.

"Alcoa's materials knowledge and technical expertise provide a critical advantage to the Navy, allowing ship builders to streamline manufacturing and build a better ship at a lower cost," said Alcoa Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Ray Kilmer.

Kilmer said the company sees "a growing opportunity in all the services to use Alcoa's technical expertise to help the United States stay on the cutting edge of military science through advanced materials, designs and manufacturing techniques."

Alcoa has received $8 million in new research and development contracts over the past year. The company employs about 61,000 people worldwide.

In January Alcoa announced it is boosting production of aluminum lithium alloys to meet aerospace industry demand. The alloys, used in forgings and sheet and plate applications in aircraft structures, result in lighter airframes.

The largest expansion of production capacity will be at a company facility in Lafayette, Ind., but capacity will also be raised at its New Kensington, Pa., site and in Kitts Green, England.

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