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Constellium looks to recycling for alloys answer

France – French aluminium product developer Constellium is increasing the percentage of recycled metal in its aircraft parts in an attempt to lower costs and minimise environmental impact. This move has been prompted largely by the volatile prices of alloys frequently used in the aerospace sector.

‘€˜Last year, 77% of the aluminium alloys we produced for aerospace applications were coming from recycling,’€™ confirms Constellium’€™s Director of Technology and Innovation Bruno Chenal. At the company’€™s factory in Issoire, the proportion of recycled metal used is targeted to reach 80% by the year 2015.

According to Mr Chenal, recycling one pound of aluminium eliminates 11.4 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. ‘€˜Measured in energy consumption, recycling one pound of aluminium uses only 5% of the energy required for creating one pound of ‘€œnew’€ metal,’€™ he adds. Recycling, therefore, represents a meeting of ecology and economics.

To enable an increase in the proportion of recycled aluminium, close co-operation with partners such as Airbus, Boeing, Embraer and Bombardier has been established; the aim is to encourage the industry to embrace a closed-loop system and to enable Constellium to salvage offcuts. In the opinion of the aluminium producer, around three quarters of their factories’€™ requirements are currently satisfied in this way.

As part of Europe’€™s Clean Sky initiative in a Dassault-led project, Constellium aims to continue researching new alloys and processes. According to Mr Chenal, much is to be gained from aviation ‘€˜graveyards’€™ – in other words, the thousands of aircraft now stored at remote locations such as the Nevada desert in the USA. He estimates an aluminium content value averaging around US$ 70 000 per airframe.

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