Antoine de Turckheim, director, Fairmat USA: “The Fairmat factory in Salt Lake City will start operations in summer 2024”

The French startup Fairmat made significant announcements in the first half of 2024, including the creation of commercial and industrial operations in the United States and the strengthening of its partnership with Hexcel Corporation. JEC met with Antoine de Turckheim to better understand this major operation.

Antoine de Turckheim, director, Fairmat USA: “The Fairmat factory in Salt Lake City will start operations in summer 2024”

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JEC Composites: Fairmat is a young company, and its development in the American market has surprised many people. Do you understand why?

Barely three years after its creation, Fairmat is still a young company, with its headquarters and a laboratory in Paris, and a 4,000 m² factory in Nantes. Through various airplane seat projects in his company Expliseat, our president, Benjamin Saada, used carbon fibre and discovered several issues related to its lifecycle. Notably, there is a significant volume of scrap material to be recovered, and this is where Fairmat’s solution becomes interesting. Our technology is based on cutting rather than grinding, and we offer chips that can be combined with resin to create new parts. From a recycling perspective, centralising everything is not ideal, as it can increase CO2 emissions through collection and associated transportation. It’s better to rely on a network of local branches. Additionally, our industrial model is easily replicable as it relies on the cloud and uses AI. This model has already attracted top-tier clients like Hexcel, Siemens Gamesa, Dassault Aviation, Exel Composites, etc. With them, we favour a long-term strategy. We quickly considered geographical expansion, and the United States represents a real opportunity, a more accessible market for an agile structure like Fairmat.

JEC Composites: Can you tell us about the genesis of this American project that is leading to the opening of commercial offices and a factory in Salt Lake City, Utah?

In 2023, Benjamin Saada and I spent 10 days in Utah on a study trip that confirmed the presence of very robust carbon activities, with reference companies like Albany Composites, Northrop Grumman or TCR Composites for example, but also the absence of a structured recycling sector. We thought that the United States could be a laboratory for international expansion, and I accepted the mission to identify an accessible industrial site and recruit the teams that would work there. The Salt Lake City site has several advantages, and the local authorities in Utah facilitated the negotiations. Additionally, as we officially announced in May 2024, we concluded a long-term agreement with Hexcel, which operates a major prepreg plant in Salt Lake City. This strengthening of our ties with Hexcel Corporation obviously represents a valuable foundation that ensures a point of balance.

Fairmat, usine USA, Utah
L’usine de Fairmat aux Etats-Unis, dans l’Utah (photo: Fairmat)

JEC Composites: What were the main challenges you faced in the early stages of your mission?

There were no particular obstacles to overcome, and the main complexity lies in the difference in business cultures. For example, the negotiations on the factory lease were lengthy because we did not have the same approach. Additionally, we sometimes encountered difficulties in recruiting the profiles we were looking for, but this is a general industry problem, not specific to Fairmat or the United States.

JEC Composites: Did the difference in sensitivity and approach between the United States and Europe regarding sustainability issues create any specific difficulties?

Not really, because sustainability is present everywhere in people’s minds, especially among industrials managers who are at the confluence of customer and legislators’ demands. Utah is also at the forefront of these reflections, especially since the state is a very important industrial hub. In fact, in the United States, sustainability is not secondary for leaders or the public, but it is essential to ensure it is not made heavy or constraining, as this can create resistance.

JEC Composites: Was the financial setup difficult to finalise?

No, not particularly, although it is, of course, a significant project. Replicability and scalability are at the heart of our technology, making it well-suited for international development. Moreover, Fairmat is supported by top-tier investors who back our expansion strategy.

When will the Salt Lake City factory be operational, and do you already have other international development prospects in mind, particularly in Asia?

The Salt Lake City factory will be operational in summer 2024, with a ramp-up phase lasting several months. Generally, like all entrepreneurs, we are always on the lookout, but it is also important not to rush and to proceed step by step. We are therefore keeping an eye on Asian markets, but there is no imminent new industrial project.

Cover photo: Antoine de Turckheim, Fairmat

More information www.fairmat.tech