Sigmatex CEO discusses new planned U.S. facility

South Carolina plant will open in 2015 and offer expansion up to 450,000 sq-ft for growth in aerospace and automotive composites.

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At the recent CAMX conference and trade show in Orlando, Fla., USA, Oct. 13-16, CW had the opportunity to speak with Sigmatex Group CEO Scott Tolson about the carbon fiber textile manufacturer’s decision to build a new manufacturing facility in the U.S., in South Carolina.

The new facility, announced Oct. 15, will be located on 20 acres at the Mathews Industrial Park in Orangeburg County, with room to expand from an initial 75,000-ft2/6,968m2 building to one with a footprint of 450,000 ft2/41,806m2 in modular increments. Planned investment in the facility is $12 million (USD), one of the largest that Sigmatex has ever undertaken, and the new plant will employ approximately 50 people. Tolson says the project is on the fast track and startup is planned for June 2015. The South Carolina facility will supplement existing Sigmatex plants in Benicia, Calif., USA; Shanghai, China; and two U.K. locations, at Rochdale and Runcorn, Cheshire.

“This new U.S. facility was planned for a long time,” states Tolson, who explains that the new plant will initially have a focus on multiaxial, non-crimp fabrics and traditional woven fabrics, with Liba and Dornier weaving machines on order for installation. Over time, additional machines for spread tow as well as three-dimensional weaving will be installed as U.S. markets develop. “We need to keep offering new capacity to the market, to prove to customers that there is sufficient material available to them,” he adds. Sigmatex has grown 30 percent over the last year, and he sees similar growth for the coming year.

Tolson sees “a real appetite for carbon fiber products in the U.S.” and he revealed an interesting facet of his strategy for the company’s impressive growth: “We always expand our capacity in concert with carbon manufacturers’ announced expansions.” Sigmatex is one of the world’s largest buyers of carbon fiber, as it produces only carbon fiber textiles.

“We believe this facility will enable us to meet any foreseeable future market requirements and ensure that we will continue to support the supply chain for the aerospace and automotive sectors. This is game-changing for us,” concludes Tolson. 

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