Aluminium major Alcoa forecasts global aerospace demand for aluminium to grow 9-10% in 2013, outstripping total world demand growth of 7% and running ahead of other sectors including building and construction (4-5%), industrial gas turbines (3-5%), commercial transportation (2-7%), packaging (2-3%) and automotive (1-4).
The global all-sectors forecast runs slightly ahead of 2012 performance, which saw total demand rise 6%, following increases of 10% in 2011 and 13% in 2010.
Alcoa posted full-year sales of nearly $25 billion, down 5% on 2011 but reflecting a 12% year-on-year drop in aluminium prices, a shift which accounted for the bulk of the company's $1.25 billion revenue decrease. Pre-tax profits were down 70%, to $1.06 billion, though Alcoa claimed record profitability in mid and downstream businesses, which sees it supply processed products including sheet for aircraft skins, forgings and extrusions and aircraft fasteners.
The company believes a new generation of high-strength alloys and assembly techniques make its core aerospace product competitive with, or even superior to, carbon fibre for airframes on grounds of cost, weight and corrosion resistance. And, stresses Alcoa, alumunium retains an absolute advantage in recyclability, which remains a formidable challenge with composite materials.