Toray Industries Inc. (Tokyo, Japan) announced on Feb. 17 that it has purchased about 400 acres of commercial land for “future business expansion” in Spartanburg County, S.C. Although Toray did not explicitly state the purpose for the U.S. land acquisition, the property’s proximity to Boeing’s South Carolina 787 aircraft assembly plant, and Toray’s recent purchase of a 20 percent share in U.S.-based automotive composites specialist Plasan Carbon Composites Inc. (Wixom, Mich.) strongly suggest that the site will accommodate carbon fiber manufacturing: Toray reportedly has been considering a plan to build an integrated carbon fiber production facility that would incorporate spinning operations for precursor fiber as well as carbonization and prepregging lines.
Toray says it expects the U.S. to regain its industrial competitiveness on the back of the ongoing shale gas/oil revolution and a resulting revival in manufacturing. The company, therefore, expects U.S. demand for its TORAYCA prepreg to grow not only in aircraft but also natural gas pressure vessel applications and sees the U.S. as its access point to Latin American markets (i.e., Mexico and Brazil). Toray plans a total investment of roughly ¥100 billion ($978 million USD) in its U.S. operations by 2020, and made clear that the land acquisition also will figure significantly in mid-term plans to expand in other emerging economies.