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Toho Tenax Strengthens Aerospace Composites Initiatives

  • Tuesday, 6th July 2010
  • Reading time: about 4 minutes

Toho Tenax, the core company of the Teijin Group’s carbon fibres business, is significantly strengthening its strategic initiatives in the global aerospace market in an effort to expand its carbon fibre business.

Toho Tenax began providing carbon fibres for aircraft in the mid 1980s and now supplies Airbus and other aerospace manufacturers with various advanced materials. It recently concluded long-term supply contracts with EADS, the parent company of Airbus, and Bombardier Aerospace of Canada. Under the new initiatives, the company aims to supply advanced carbon fiber materials for a variety of aircraft, including regional and business jets. In addition to carbon fiber yarn sales, Toho Tenax plans to expand revenue through strengthened prepreg sales. Specific initiatives to be taken as follows:

– Significantly expand prepreg business, shifting aerospace business revenue from 80% from yarn sales at present to more than 50% from prepreg and composite sales within five to 10 years. As part of this expansion, the establishment of new production bases will be considered depending on the volume of demand.

– Strengthen direct contracts with aerospace manufacturers, particularly to meet a rising demand for solutions and to secure markets for the company’s own yarn.

– Strengthen organizational structure through the newly formed Aerospace Sales Department, a dedicated sales organization established to provide aerospace–related products and services through a doubling of global sales personnel and strengthened partnerships with its subsidiaries in Europe and the U.S.A.

– Strengthen technological partnerships with other Teijin Group companies to develop high-performance carbon fibers and resins for next-generation aircraft by improving prepreg productivity, developing mass-production technology and adopting innovative materials and technologies from automotive applications.

– Launch a thermoplastic prepreg production facility to manufacture high performance materials with superior impact resistance and abrasion resistance for use as primary structural materials in aircraft.

Most recently, Toho Tenax has developed two promising materials that are moving towards practical application:

– Carbon fiber composite material using PEEK thermoplastic resins for the A350 XWB aircraft. The technology has been verified and qualification is under way.

– Carbon fiber composite material using benzoxazine thermosetting resins for the A380 aircraft. Technology verification has been completed and preparations for qualification are under way.

By 2025, Toho Tenax aims to provide the aerospace market with 6,000 tons of carbon fibre for a 30% market share worth over 100 billion yen. The demand for carbon fibre composite materials in the aerospace market is expected to grow from 5,000 tons/year at present to more than 10,000 tons in 2015 and some 20,000 tons by 2025.

At the current time, the company has concluded a long term framework agreement with EADS and Airbus regarding the direct supply of carbon fibre and carbon fibre-based materials for a range of Airbus aircraft. In line with the agreement, a specific contract has been signed to cover the supply of Tenax(r) thermoplastic consolidated laminates, which currently is under qualification for the new Airbus A350 XWB.

Toho Tenax expects this award to be the first of many in the thermoplastics field. To underline this strategy, Toho Tenax is presently investing in a new Tenax Thermoplastic Unidirectional Prepreg line within its German operational facility, which is expected to commence production in early 2011.

Toho Tenax also is in discussion with Airbus to provide other new carbon fibre-based material solutions for other aircraft and future A350 XWB versions. One possible agreement is the supply of woven Tenax carbon fibre-reinforced benzoxazine prepreg with potential application in the Airbus A380 Auxillary Power Unit (APU) housing. The material is part of a new family of carbon fibre reinforced prepregs based on novel resin systems.

Toho Tenax and Airbus have been building a strong relationship since 1989, during which time Toho Tenax has supplied Tenax(r) carbon fibre filament yarn for a variety of Airbus aircraft Families, including the A320, A330 and A340, as well as the A380. They expanded the relationship with an agreement for the joint development of advanced materials in early 2008 resulting in Toho Tenax developing novel carbon fibre-based materials to meet Airbus’ future requirements. Toho Tenax Europe has also been awarded a contract to supply carbon fibre material for major primary and secondary composite structures on Bombardier’s new CSeries aircraft program. Toho Tenax will be supplying a variety of carbon fibre types for both dry textile and prepreg use on the program. Toho Tenax expects the award to generate revenues of approximately EUR130 million over the next ten years.

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