Toray, Hexcel announce European carbon fiber production expansions
The worldwide demand for PAN-based carbon fibers expanded in 2013, exceeding 40,000 metric tonnes (88.184 million lb), and is expected to continue to grow at a rate in excess of 15 percent per year. Two of the world’s most prolific carbon fiber producers have made significant announcements about new production facilities that will impact positively the supply of carbon fiber.
Toray Industries Inc. (Tokyo, Japan) announced on Sept. 29 that it and subsidiary Toray Carbon Fibers Europe SA (CFE, Abidos, France) held a ceremony on Sept. 26 to mark the completion of its new polyacrylonitrile (PAN) precursor plant at CFE’s Lacq, France, facility. The event was attended by about 230 guests, led by Japan’s Ambassador to France, Yoichi Suzuki, and officials from French government agencies and municipalities as well as those representing the carbon fiber industry.
The new precursor plant is part of the Toray Group’s investment plan announced in March 2012, with the goal of expanding carbon fiber production capacity at its four global production sites in Japan, the U.S., France and South Korea. The new CFE plant is the third precursor production base added to the Group’s holdings, following previous openings of facilities in Japan and the U.S.
The move enables CFE to move on to an integrated production regime, switching to precursor produced at its own plant instead of relying the on material imported from Japan. Local production of precursor is expected to boost the location’s cost-competitiveness. CFE also will supply precursor to other Toray Group production bases, including Toray Advanced Material Korea Inc., contributing to the group-wide business expansion.
Hexcel Corp. (Stamford, Conn.), for its part, announced on Sept. 30 that it will expand its carbon fiber production capacity through the addition of new precursor and carbon fiber lines in Roussillon, France. The $250 million (USD) investment will also include associated quality-control laboratories and offices.
The new French plant will occupy a 37-acre site at the Osiris Chemicals Industry Platform in Roussillon, which is close to Hexcel’s weaving and prepreg manufacturing facilities near Lyon. Carbon fiber from the new plant will be supplied to Hexcel customers, including Airbus (Toulouse, France) for the A350 XWB and Safran (Paris, France) for the CFM LEAP engine. Construction of the new plant will begin by mid-2015 and it is expected to employ 120 people when fully operational in early 2018.
Hexcel says the new facility is part of the company’s ongoing worldwide investment to create a diversified and robust global supply chain to support aerospace customers’ growing demand for carbon fiber composites. In recent years, Hexcel has increased its precursor and carbon fiber capacities through targeted expansions at several existing facilities. Notably, Hexcel is investing in ongoing precursor and carbon fiber expansions in the U.S. and is currently installing its resin mixing and filming technology – first developed in Europe – in the U.S. as well. The new facility in France is the next step in support of European customers.