Carbon fiber manufacturers in the news

Hexcel commissions two new carbon fiber production lines in Utah; Zoltek expands its St. Louis operations.

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On Nov. 17, 2011, at its manufacturing facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, Hexcel (Stamford, Conn.) commissioned two new carbon fiber production lines. The dedication ceremony was attended by state and local dignitaries, including officials from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

The two carbon fiber lines are part of an ongoing expansion at the Utah site, where Hexcel also manufactures carbon fiber/epoxy prepregs. The expansion increases Hexcel’s global carbon fiber nameplate output capacity to 16 million lb (7,300 metric tonnes). The expansion, a multimillion-dollar program, is expected, initially, to create as many as 50 new jobs. By 2015, it could add several hundred more.

The company says the expansion was necessary to keep pace with increasing demand for carbon fiber composites on aircraft platforms, such as the Airbus A350 XWB, A380 and A320, and the Boeing 747-8, 777, 737 and 787.

On the same day, carbon fiber manufacturer Zoltek Corp. (St. Louis, Mo.) reported that it is expanding into a new 135,000-ft2 (11,427m2) facility outside of St. Louis. The building site will house Zoltek’s prepreg manufacturing business and the company’s new Technical Center. The latter will provide aid specifically to customers in the wind energy and automotive markets.

The company says it is making the move in response to growing demand for a low-cost carbon fiber prepreg supply in wind energy and other applications. “Our strategy has been to commercialize carbon fiber and broaden its use in industrial applications through low-cost and supply availability,” says CEO Zsolt Rumy. “Unfortunately, the current carbon fiber prepreg supply is fragmented and geared towards aerospace markets rather than industrial use,” he contends. “We are addressing this shortfall by consolidating the supply chain and forward-integrating into prepreg manufacturing for select industrial applications.” One of these is wind energy, as turbine manufacturers use more carbon fiber reinforcement, particularly in blade spars. But an emerging trend is the greater use of carbon in automobiles, says Zoltek, as well as offshore drilling, infrastructure repair, marine and other applications that require high-strength, lightweight materials.

St. Louis is home to Zoltek’s headquarters and one of its four carbon fiber manufacturing facilities. Zoltek also maintains carbon fiber manufacturing sites in Texas and, outside the U.S., inMexico and Hungary.