Alliant Tech Opens Composite Manufacturing Plant

Operation to process up to $1 billion in aircraft structures, components

Alliant Techsystems has opened a new manufacturing plant for composite airframe and engine components, specifically for the Airbus A350 XWB and General Electric and Rolls-Royce engine programs, in Clearfield, Utah.

The 615,000-sq.ft. operation is dedicated to high-rate composite manufacturing. Alliant Techsystems (ATK) said its Aircraft Commercial Center of Excellence (ACCE) has approximately 100,000 square feet committed to clean rooms that house its patented automated stiffener forming technology and engine wrap machines. Initial production of 700 parts per month will accelerate with customer needs and market expansion; at full production, the ACCE will be capable of producing 10,000 parts per month, ATK said.

The value of the capital investment has not been released.

ATK’s stiffener forming process fabricates stringers and frames that make up the skeleton of a commercial aircraft fuselage shell, reportedly at production rates almost 10 times faster than traditional lay-up process.

"As a result of the growth in our structures business, ATK expects to add up to 800 future jobs in support of composite manufacturing in Utah," stated Joy de Lisser, vice president and general manager of Aerospace Structures. "With the hands-on training we offer, this growth creates an opportunity to develop a workforce possessing the high-tech skills needed in the aerospace industry."

The A350 is a family of wide-body commercial jets that Airbus SAS offers for long-range service, comparable to the Boeing 777; the XWB will be a redesigned, “extra wide body” version, comparable to the Boeing 787, and capable of carrying 270-350 passengers, according to the cabin design. Rolls-Royce has been named exclusive engine supplier to Airbus for some models of the new A350.

The new A350 will be the first Airbus with both fuselage and wing structures made primarily of carbon fibre-reinforced polymer. Minneapolis-based Alliant Techsystems said the new operation in Utah will be the headquarters for its commercial aircraft programs; it has booked orders totaling over $1 billion for commercial aircraft components in rent years, and orders for military aircraft composite structures amounting to $500 million.

"Our new Aircraft Commercial Center of Excellence is a key component in our strategy to capitalize on the growing demand for modern, more efficient commercial aircraft," stated Mark DeYoung, ATK's president and CEO. "Our longstanding experience in highly-engineered composite structures and our expertise in automated manufacturing methods are now matched by a state-of-the-art production facility."

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