Hexcel has officially opened its new plant at the Les Roches-Roussillon Chemicals Industry Platform in Isère, France, which is its first combined precursor and carbon fibre plant outside the US.
Four years after the project launch, the site is operational and increasing Hexcel’s global carbon fibre production capacity. Hexcel invested €200 million in the plant that will generate 120 direct and 250 indirect jobs. Hexcel’s workforce in France has now risen to 1200 people with more than 1000 employees located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
Attending the opening event were Muriel Pénicaud, French Labour Minister, Yannick Neuder, Vice-President of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region for higher education, research, innovation and European funding, and Nick Stanage, Hexcel Chairman, CEO and President, as well as local dignitaries, Hexcel customers and media representatives.
The new facility is part of Hexcel’s ongoing worldwide investment to create a diversified and robust global supply chain to support aerospace customers’ growing demand for carbon fibre composites. Since 2015, Hexcel has invested in all its locations worldwide, largely to support the growing demand for composites and the development of aerospace industry programmes such as Airbus (A350 XWB) and Safran (CFM International LEAP engine).
“With this plant, we are responding to the needs of aerospace customers and their growing demand for carbon composite materials,” says Thierry Merlot, Hexcel President Europe/Asia-Pacific/Middle East/Africa. “The site has already received its first aerospace certifications.”
The location at the Osiris Chemicals Industry Platform was chosen by Hexcel due to its proximity to customers, other Hexcel sites, its quality infrastructure and operational excellence, and the availability of competitively priced electricity.
Operating in synergy with Hexcel’s existing sites in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Les Avenières, the biggest carbon fibre weaving plant in Europe, and Dagneux, manufacturer of prepreg fabrics and carbon fibres, the new plant will create a global ecosystem for the high-performance composite materials sector covering the entire production chain from carbon fibre to prepreg.
In 2014, Hexcel signed a regional master agreement with Pôle emploi, the French national employment agency, to support its development and hire over 200 employees for its sites in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region through the implementation of job simulation recruitment (MRS).
“Hexcel has become more attractive in recent years,” states Merlot. “The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region has provided support with training. New employees have received customised training courses, including onsite training at Hexcel facilities in the United States and Spain.”
Investment in R&D
“Today we are able to invest in production capacity thanks to both organic growth and the acquisition of complementary technologies,” Merlot adds. “Recent acquisitions and partnerships have enabled us to diversify and acquire new technology solutions such as additive manufacturing, adhesives, pultrusion processes and thermoplastics. For this purpose, this year we signed a strategic partnership with Arkema to develop carbon fibre-reinforced thermoplastics and set up a new joint research and development unit in France.”
The launch of a 3500 m2 R&D centre at the Hexcel Les Avenières site is scheduled for the first quarter of 2019. This will focus on new processes and out-of-autoclave technologies to support innovations in high performance composites and continue to grow its market share in composite materials for aerostructure applications.
“We are entering a highly active phase of research and development in order to design new generation materials and processes for the engines and aircraft of tomorrow,” Merlot concludes.
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