Mitsubishi Rayon to build plant in Europe to produce SMC materials

The new SMC production plant is aimed at satisfying the needs for high-end solutions for luxury cars as well as those for solutions for mass-produced cars that are low-cost and also technically easily accessible.

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Mitsubishi Rayon Co. (MRC, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo) will construct a new plant at Vilshofen in Bavaria, Germany for producing sheet molding compound (SMC) intermediate materials in a move to expand its carbon fiber and composite materials business in Europe. The factory is expected to begin operation in September 2016 with annual production capacity of 1,000 metric tons, with the ability to expand up to 6,000 tons as demand increases in the European market. After completion of the expansion, MRC's overall production capacity will grow to 9,000 tons, triple the current production capacity at the Toyohashi plant in Japan.  

MRC has developed high-performance large-tow carbon fiber that is suitable for automobile applications, and quick-cure prepregs - intermediate materials with which elaborate exterior panel parts can be press-molded in a short period of time. In developing business in Europe, MRC has developed the production base for CFRP-made automotive parts and intermediate materials by acquiring Wethje Carbon Composites GmbH and TK Industries GmbH, and has explored the needs for carbon fiber and composite materials for automotive applications by establishing the CF Marketing and Technical Center and by increasing local marketing staff. 

SMC is a type of intermediate material of fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP). This sheet-shaped material with fibers several centimeter long dispersed in resin is press-molded into automotive parts. Compared with prepreg intermediate materials (carbon fiber fabric impregnated with resin), the company says that SMC can be used for molding complicatedly shaped parts in a short period of time. With its uniform mechanical characteristics similar to metal, lighter weight and higher strength can be achieved rather easily by using carbon fiber and utilizing existing know-how on parts design. 

Until now, MRC has developed and turned into products high-performance large-tow carbon fiber and prepreg materials for high-cycle press molding (PCM). By adding SMC intermediate materials to its product line, the company says it will enhance its capability to make proposals to its users and work to expand its carbon fiber and composite material business in Europe.