HEXCEL, THE NEWLY revitalised composite-manufacturer, is fighting to cut costs by up to 50%, to ensure a place on the Airbus A3XX, Boeing's proposed 747-500X/600X programme and other future aerospace projects.

Hexcel president Juergen Habermeier, speaking about future plans for the first time since the California-based composite specialist completed its merger with Ciba-Geigy's composites business in February, says: "Composites can only compete if we get costs down between 35% and 50%. The cost pressure is real - from Airbus, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas."

Aerospace accounts for 65% of the newly combined company's business, which had 1995 sales of more than $675 million. Although a recent surge in aircraft orders will mean more repeat business, Habermeier warns that new sales will not materialise unless the cost issue is addressed.

"Applications of composites are more critically reviewed than they were a decade ago. For example, the 737-700 cowlings are aluminium, not composite - the penetration of composites on new aircraft is smaller than before," he says.

To compete for large-scale participation in new-generation large- aircraft projects, Habermeier says that costs must be cut from around $550/kg for a fairing now made for the 757, to "around $220/kg".

Research-and-development projects are running to evaluate the cost-cutting potential of new processes, including computerised resin-transfer moulding, resin-film infusion and a new composite-stringer manufacturing system.

Part of the cost cutting will also be achieved through rationalisation at Hexcel caused by the merger. The company's Anaheim site in California will close, with production moving upstate to Livermore and to Casa Grande, Arizona.

Source: Flight International