South Africa’s two largest – and fiercely competitive – aviation manufacturers have teamed up with Airbus to collaborate for the first time.

A three-way agreement signed by Denel Aerostructures, Aerosud and Airbus creates a 10-year investment plan to develop more sophisticaed production techniques.

By joining together, Denel and Aerosud hope to make assemblies and parts fpr Airbus and other OEMs that are more sophisticated than either could accomplish on their own, executives say.

Specifically, the agreement will make it possible for Aerosud to develop titanium parts using 3-D printing technology and ship them to Denel Aerostructures. Denel will receive the unfinished parts, complete detailed machining and attach them into larger, more complex assemblies.

The goal is to develop a unique market niche in a global and increasingly competitive supply chain, as lower-cost countries, such as Malaysia, China and Mexico, assume a larger share of the build-to-print market, says Aerosud chief executive Paul Potgeiter.

“We have to have an edge actor that will distinguish ourselves and therefore give us a better probability for sustainability,” he says.

Aerosud has developed a worldwide reputation for high volume production of small parts, with annual shipments of 1.4 million components to Airbus and Boeing commercial and military programmes. In the last five years, the company has teamed up the South African government to invest in laser-based 3-D printing systems. The first “pilot part” developed under the project will be unveiled later this year, Potgeiter says.

Meanwhile, Denel is working to diversify into a Tier 1 or Tier 2 member of the commercial aviation supply chain, leveraging its role in the A400M programme as the design authority and producer of the wing-to-fuselage fairing.

Denel Aerostructures CEO Ismail Dockrat called the MoU signing on 16 September “a major step forward for South African aerospace industry”.

Aside from opening new markets, the MoU advances a concept known as South Africa Inc, in which local players either consolidate or collaborate to remain relevant in the global market.

“The collaboration that you’ve now been exposed to today is the first step in the process - it’s a long process going forward,” says Riaz Saloojee, chief executive of the parent Denel Group. “We will cooperate as part of ‘South Africa Incorporated’ to maximise our leverage on the capabilities we have together.”

Source: Cirium Dashboard