Pratt & Whitney and Alcoa announced Monday at the Farnborough Airshow that Alcoa will forge the first-ever aluminum alloy fan blade in a jet engine.
Typically, fan blades have been made from titanium. General Electric is developing ceramic composite blades for its competitor to the PurePower engine, the LEAP-1.
"Combining Alcoa's proprietary alloys and unique manufacturing processes with Pratt & Whitney's design, we cracked the code on forging an aluminum fan blade that is lighter and enables better fuel efficiency," said Alcoa Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld.
Alcoa said the 10-year contract with Pratt is worth $1.1 billion.
"The PurePower engine's hybrid metallic fan blade represents a significant advance in our engine design and allows us to meet engine performance requirements while reducing weight and cost," said Paul Adams, president of Pratt & Whitney.
The company said that the design of the geared turbo fan, which uses a larger, slower-moving fan than in previous jet engines, made the use of aluminum possible.
Alcoa plans to produce aluminum and aluminum-lithium from its Pittsburgh and Lafayette, Ind., facilities, and the front fan blades will be manufactured in Cleveland. As part of this contract, Alcoa will also supply nickel and titanium alloy blades, vanes and structural components. Those parts will be manufactured in Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey and Texas.