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Mitsubishi Rayon to establish plant in Europe for producing carbon fiber intermediate materials

News International-French

3 Nov 2015

Mitsubishi Rayon Co., Ltd. will construct a new plant at Vilshofen in Bavaria, Germany, for producing SMC (Sheet Molding Compound) intermediate materials in order to reinforce and expand its carbon fiber and composite materials business in Europe.

The factory is expected to commence operation in September 2016with annual production capacity of 1,000 metric tons, to be expanded up to 6,000 tons as demand further increases in the European market. After completion of the expansion, Mitsubishi Rayon Co., Ltd. (hereinafter "MRC")'s overall production capacity grows to 9,000 tons, triple the current production capacity at the Toyohashi plant in Japan.

Against the backdrop of tighter fuel efficiency regulations in the European automobile market, car manufacturers are actively moving toward vehicle weight reduction, and the full-fledged adoption of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) with its high strength and light weight is being accelerated, not only for luxury cars, whose production volume is limited, but also for mass-produced cars.

Under those circumstances, MRC has developed and turned into products high-performance large-tow carbon fiber - suitable for automobile applications, and quick-cure prepregs - intermediate materials with which elaborate exterior panel parts can be press-molded in a short period of time. In developing business in Europe, MRC has developed the production base for CFRP-made automotive parts and intermediate materials by acquiring Wethje Carbon Composites GmbH and TK Industries GmbH, and has explored the needs for carbon fiber and composite materials for automotive applications by establishing the CF Marketing and Technical Center and by increasing local marketing staff. The construction of this new SMC production plant is aimed at satisfying the needs for high-end solutions for luxury cars as well as those for solutions for mass-produced cars that are low-cost and also technically easily accessible.

SMC is a type of intermediate material of fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP). This sheet-shaped material with fibers several centimeter long dispersed in resin is press-molded into automotive parts. Compared with prepreg intermediate materials (carbon fiber fabric impregnated with resin), SMC can be used for molding complicatedly shaped parts in a short period of time. With its uniform mechanical characteristics similar to metal, lighter weight and higher strength can be achieved rather easily by using carbon fiber and utilizing existing know-how on parts design.

Until now, MRC has developed and turned into products high-performance large-tow carbon fiber and prepreg materials for high-cycle press molding (PCM). By adding SMC intermediate materials to our product line, we will enhance our capability to make proposals to our users and work to expand our carbon fiber and composite material business in Europe.

Photo: Mr Hitoshi Ochi, Mitsubishi Rayon Group President