Plate vs. Bar, Forged vs. Rolled Titanium Semi's in Aerospace Supply Chains

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Last week we reported on a story involving a legal case brought against a titanium distributor accused of falsely certifying test certificates for having supplied an alternative product that did not comply with a military specification. Ironically, the story broke last year. The only newsworthy aspect involved a trial delay recently reported by American Metal Market. But the fact this story broke last year didn’t stop the controversy.

We actually didn’t have much to say about the supplier in question per se but rather commented on the potential implications of the case from a supply chain perspective. Needless to say, our post prompted some comments from the distributor’s attorney as well as an individual whom “is not and does not work for the distributor or speak on the distributor’s behalf. So we decided to do a little more digging to better understand how aerospace titanium supply chains work and provide our readers with more insight into this case because it has potential ramifications for other metals markets.

MetalMiner has not verified the actual wording from the indictment, however, we have reviewed various news sources and this one from The Sun News confirms our own sources, “At issue is compliance with military specification MIL-T-9046 that supposedly requires a rolled plate process. The indictment charges Western with “substituting a forged bar material and certifying to “Merco Manufacturing Company, Inc., Shuur Metals and other buyers of titanium that the product “met the specification of MIL-T-9046.

Our own contacts in the industry state emphatically that re-certifying material, if that is indeed what occurred, is a “no-no. Plain and simply, re-forged bar does not comply with a rolled plate specification, in this case, MIL T 9046. However, in many steel distribution environments, it is common practice to take larger blocks (plates) of steel and cut them (slice and dice) to make them into a bar size. We have seen this practice within the tool steel industry as an example.

But this practice came to an end in the aerospace industry. As we had explained in some of the comments to the original post, forged parts remain acceptable within the aerospace industry (obviously) but suppliers can not “slice and dice and re-certify the material as conforming to the MIL T 9046 specification as that specification applies specifically to plate and sheet products (and not bar products).

Another practice, involves taking a larger piece of forged block and re-forging it to a bar size (and then re-certifying it). This practice, also considered a no-no, can’t serve as a substitute if the specification specifically called for rolled bar. This all comes down to money. A full line bar supplier would need to invest in more expensive minimum mill runs of specific rolled bar sizes to carry a broad range of sizes needed to effectively serve a customer base.

But as we like to say, supply chains are only as strong as their weakest link. Machine shops who turn out faulty parts can’t lay the blame entirely on raw material suppliers either. They too need to take accountability for ensuring materials meet the proper MIL specification. This example applies to other industries outside aerospace as well. Let’s just hope the finished parts don’t wind up in critical applications.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

–Lisa Reisman

Comment (1)

  1. Mike Allin says:

    You said the supply chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link and I don’t think there is a better way to sum up the mess made here. When it comes down to aerospace or military supplies it is a life or death decision you are dealing with. This is a big deal and the supplier in this case obviously has a problem with ethics. I think it also comes down to distributors doing a full due diligence on their suppliers because in this case the supplier faked certificates that said they complied with the military’s standards. Very true that the supply chain is only as good as it’s weakest link and I think that sums the story up well.

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