expansion in global carbon-fiber capacity that began two years ago is slowing
down just a bit due to economic weakness and delays in major aircraft programs,
such Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.
Rayon Co. announced it will
postpone for approximately one year the start of production at its new carbon
fiber plant in the Otake Production Center
work was halted.
buildup in carbon-fiber capacity began in 2007 when it became apparent that
Boeing and Airbus planned to use carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic composites as
a major structural material in new commercial aircraft. Meanwhile, demand also
rose from other applications, ranging from wind turbine blades to pressure
Dreamliner became the fastest selling wide-body airliner in history with close
to 600 orders. The plane was originally scheduled to enter into service in May 2008,
but is currently scheduled to enter into service in Q1 2010. Original delays
were caused by shortages of fasteners and other production-related issues. More
recently, orders slowed due to weakness in the global economy.
"Due to the
recent worldwide economic downturn, demand for carbon fiber in several market
sectors is expected to remain stagnant and the development of new applications
are being delayed," says Hiroyuki Kinoshita, president of Grafil, Inc., a 100-percent-owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi Rayon.
look at the planned expansions in carbon fiber:
Toray Industries. The biggest global supplier of
carbon fiber, and the prime carbon-fiber supplier to Boeing, Toray will reach a
capacity of 42 million lbs of carbon fiber this year, up from 21 million lbs in 2005. Toray will open this July an additional carbonization plant for
special thin fibers with a production capacity of 2.2 million lbs in Ehime, Japan.
The thin fibers are ideal for injection molding of components for bicycles,
automotive parts, industrial robots and secondary structural elements for
aircraft, such as rotor blades, flaps and spoilers. Toray plans to boost its production
capacity to 55 million lbs by 2010. In the next expansion phase, which could
be delayed by the economy, Toray will produce a medium-elasticity,
high-strength carbon fiber for primary structural elements of aircraft. One of the applications will be the tail of
the first Japanese-made small passenger jetliner under development by
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.