Toray buys stake in automotive molder Plasan Carbon Composites

Toray says the investment is a bid to strategically expand its carbon fiber composite material business globally in the automotive field.

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Toray Industries Inc. (Tokyo, Japan) announced on July 17 that it has purchased a 20 percent share in automotive composites specialist Plasan Carbon Composites Inc. (Wixom, Mich.). Toray says the investment is a bid to strategically expand its carbon fiber composite material business globally in the automotive field.

Plasan, which produces carbon fiber composite parts for the Chrysler Group’s (Auburn Hills, Mich.) SRT Viper, General Motors’ (Detroit, Mich.) Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and other high-performance vehicles, has expanded its automotive manufacturing presence substantially in the past few years, working in particular on development of its Pressure Press high-speed molding technology. Plasan uses Toray Composites (America) Inc.’s (Tacoma, Wash.) rapid curing, thermoset resin prepreg, based on carbon fibers produced by Toray’s U.S. subsidiary Toray Carbon Fibers America Inc. (Flower Mound, Texas), in its Pressure Press and autoclave processes.

Plasan president Jim Staargaard told HPC that Toray would now have access to Plasan’s infrastructure, operability and experience with carbon fiber composites. He adds that Plasan was interested in gaining access to Toray’s proprietary resin transfer molding (RTM) process, plus any other technologies that Toray might launch in the automotive market. Staargaard says Plasan had been developing its own RTM process several years ago, but progress was slowed by work on the Corvette and Viper. Plasan now plans to move forward with RTM and seek structural applications for RTM parts.

Toray says its capital participation in Plasan also enables Toray to establish a distribution channel to U.S. automobile manufacturers and a manufacturing and development base for carbon fiber composite auto parts in North America, completing a supply chain that ranges from production of raw carbon fiber to intermediate base materials and molded components.

Toray adds that it has been working to enhance its business bases around the world, creating a carbon fiber market for automotive applications. For Japan and the rest of Asia, the company has been designing carbon fiber composite products and developing manufacturing technologies and products primarily at the Advanced Composite Center (ACC) and Automotive Center (AMC), the core facilities of the A&A (Automotive & Aircraft) Center in Tokyo, its comprehensive technology development base that targets automotive and aircraft markets. To better serve the European market, Toray in 2008 took a stake in ACE Advanced Composite Engineering GmbH (Immenstaad, Germany), a manufacturer and distributer of carbon fiber composite parts, and in 2011 it established Euro Advanced Carbon Fiber Composites GmbH (Esslingen, Germany) jointly with Daimler AG (Stuttgart, Germany) to drive applications and market development.

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