Toray Industries of Tokyo signed an agreement with the aerospace OEM EADS to supply carbon-fiber prepreg for aircraft applications ó primarily for Airbus ó through 2025.
Until now, Toray has been supplying carbon fibers to EADS through manufacturers that supply carbon-fiber prepreg. The agreement enables Toray to directly supply a wider range of products, including its high-performance carbon-fiber prepreg to EADS.
EADS is Europe's largest aerospace corporate group comprising the globally leading aircraft manufacturer Airbus, as well as the helicopter manufacturer Eurocopter, the space provider Astrium, and the EADS Defense & Security division.
Airbus has been using carbon-fiber composite materials in primary and secondary structural material of the A320 Single Aisle Family, A330/A340, Long Range Family and A380.
With the A350 XWB, a new generation, long-range, medium-sized jet airplane, carbon-fiber composite materials will be used in a significant scale in wings and fuselage. The production of this new aircraft will dramatically increase the use of carbon-fiber composite materials at Airbus. Airbus is catching up with Boeing, which pioneered large-scale use of carbon composites in its 787 Dreamliner.
The A350 XWB will comprise three aircraft: the 250-seat A350-800, the 300-seat A350-900 and the 350-seat A350-1000. Most of the airframe of the A350 will be made of composite materials, with the fuselage assembled from composite panels. Previous Airbus models were made from aluminum and other metals.
Airbus hopes to avoid the delays with the A350 XWB that have slowed its flagship A380 Superjumbo. "We've learned our lessons," says Francois Caudron, vice-president of customer and business program development at Airbus. "We do focus on early maturity and risk mitigation" for the A350 and its systems.
The demand for carbon fiber for aircraft application has been stagnant since 2008. However, there are signs of recovery and expansion of the market, as major aircraft manufacturers have increased production.
CEO Sadayuki Sakakibara says Toray is currently in the process of qualifying its intermediate-modulus carbon-fiber prepreg and will also make active efforts so that its prepreg will be adopted for existing and new aircraft models that Airbus may develop in the future.
Toray positions aircraft application as the core application of its high-performance carbon fibers and has a roughly 60-percent market share in carbon fibers.
To date, Airbus A350 XWB orders have come from Ethiopian Airlines, Aer Lingus, Aeroflot, Afriqiyah Airways, AirAsia X, Air One, Alafco, Asiana Airlines, Bangkok Airways, China Airlines, CIT, DAE Capital, Emirates, Etihad, Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, ILFC, Kingfisher Airlines, Libyan Airlines, MAZ Aviation, AWAS, Qatar, Singapore Airlines, Synergy Aerospace, TAM, TAP, Tunisair, U.S. Airways, Vietnam Airlines and Yemenia.