Toray Composites America’s (TCA, Tacoma, Wash.) carbon fiber prepreg manufacturing facility in Frederickson, Wash., could be in line for further expansion, if negotiations between The Boeing Co. (Seattle, Wash.) and Toray Industries Inc. (Tokyo, Japan), TCA’s parent company, bear fruit.
TCA and Boeing are looking to expand their current $6 billion contract under which Toray supplies prepreg materials for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. Although the aircraft manufacturer has delayed delivery of the Dreamliner and the plane has yet to make its first flight, Boeing is committed to fast-track production, beginning in 2009 (see related news article, p. 14).
David Manger, compliance manager at TCA, says the Frederickson facility completed its fourth expansion in 2005, followed by a fifth in December 2007. A sixth, he says, has been discussed before, but the certainty of Boeing’s future carbon fiber requirements now demands action: “It’s inevitable that we would expand.”
If TCA’s prepreg facility is to increase output, its input must increase as well. Manger points out that Toray Carbon Fibers America Inc. (Decatur, Ala.), the supplier of raw carbon fiber for Boeing’s Frederickson facility, and other suppliers within the Toray group would have to expand output as well if the Boeing/Toray agreement is modified to meet Boeing’s accelerated production schedule.
TCA’s Frederickson facility employs 454, and another 50 are being added as the fifth expansion comes on line. A sixth expansion, notes Manger, will consume the remaining land that TCA has available at its Frederickson site.
Bloomberg News reported in December 2007 that Boeing’s Tokyo-based spokeswoman, Naoko Masuda, declined to comment on negotiations with Toray and said the planemaker doesn’t disclose monthly production rates of passenger jets. “Boeing considers its model production rates as proprietary information. We are working and having conversation with all of our partners, but we don’t provide details of these conversations,” said Seattle-based Boeing spokesman, Adam Morgan, in the Bloomberg report.
As previously reported, Toray Industries already has plans in place to expand its annual production capacity of carbon fiber by 70 percent, and expects to have 24,000 metric tonnes (52.9 million lb) of nameplate capacity by 2010. The company is reportedly spending ¥55 billion ($497 million USD) to expand existing plants in Japan, the U.S. and France and is building a new facility in western Japan.