Toray will add an additional carbonization facility for special thin carbon fibres for industrial use, having an annual production capacity of 1,000 tons.
This new facility at the Ehime Plant is scheduled to begin operation in July 2009. The company’s recently adopted capacity-expansion plan involves a total investment of approximately ¥16 billion, including funds for the addition of a PAN precursor production facility and a carbon-fibre carbonization facility, as well as plant-site preparation. The planned expansion of capacity will increase the Ehime Plant’s annual carbon-fibre production capacity from its present 7,300 tons to 8,300 tons, with the Toray Group’s total annual production capacity being expanded from its present 14,300 tons to 18,900 tons.
Under Toray’s capacity-expansion plan, the new facility will include a production line for special thin carbon fibres (very-fine carbon fibres made up of 3,000 or 6,000 single threads) used for industrial purposes. Thin carbon fibres are characterized by good mouldability which makes them suitable for use in automotive parts, bicycle frames, and industrial robots, which have to meet sophisticated and complicated design requirements. They are also used in secondary structural elements for aircrafts, such as main rotor blades, flaps, and spoilers. At present, thin carbon fibres are experiencing a rapid increase in demand for industrial applications in which environment, safety, and energy are three of the most favoured keywords. In the aircraft market, the supply-and-demand situation for thin carbon fibres has been increasingly strained as the two manufacturing giants Boeing and Airbus have launched their own new passenger-aircraft programs in earnest. Toray’s recent planned expansion of capacity is intended to provide a steady supply of thin carbon fibres in order to meet the expanding demand for thin carbon fibres for aircraft. In addition, the company has launched a program to install at the Ehime Plant both a production line for a medium-elasticity, high-strength carbon fibre for primary structural elements for aircrafts and a new large facility to produce carbon fibre for general industrial use.
The worldwide demand in 2007 for PAN-based carbon fibres is estimated to have been about 35,000 tons, and the demand is expected to expand at an annual rate of 15% or more in the years ahead and to reach close to 53,000 tons per annual in 2010. As a quick response to the full-scale expansion of the carbon fibre market, Toray will continue to expand its production capacity, so as to create an optimum supply system in order to meet further expansion of demand from such business segments as aerospace, sports, and general industry.
Toray, while aiming to transform the company into a highly profitable company under its medium-term business objective “Project Innovation TORAY 2010” (IT-2010), is making proactive investments to increase its production of carbon-fibre composite materials, which is one of its strategically expanding businesses. In addition to expanding the Toray group’s production capacity of carbon fibres to 25,000 tons a year by the end of 2010, the company will promote and strengthen the deployment of a vertically integrated business structure covering carbon fibres, prepregs and composites.
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