Gumi plant will mass produce carbon fiber starting next January for use in multiple industries
Toray Advanced Materials is poised to mass produce carbon fiber at its first plant in Gyeongsangbuk-do starting next January. The company plans to launch a project to build its second carbon fiber plant this month.
“We’ll cut the production cost of carbon fiber to half the current cost, and if we have a competitive edge in price on top of good performance, that will be a sea change in the landscape of the materials industry,” Toray Advanced Materials Korea President Lee Young-kwan said.
Lee said in an interview that the most important thing is producing good quality carbon fiber with a price-competitive edge.
Toray Advanced Materials is going to put carbon fiber from its Gumi plant on the markets of Europe and the United States, where aircraft are produced, said Lee, adding that his company has a 20-percent price competitiveness now with the U.S. and EU FTAs in effect.
Carbon fiber has been recognized as an environmentally-friendly “dream” material that can conserve energy by reducing the weight of automobiles, ships, and wind power components and materials. Carbon fiber is 10 times as strong, one-fourth as light, and seven times as elastic as iron. It has many applications in almost all industries ranging from the aerospace, aviation, and automobile fields to shipping and other maritime transportation sectors, new and renewable energy fields and the electric, electronics, civil engineering, and construction sectors.
The size of the Korean carbon fiber market is predicted to more than triple from the current 13,000 tons to 45,000 tons in 2020, Toray Advanced Materials Korea said. The company said it plans to pour 1.3 trillion won in the investment in the carbon fiber segment by 2020.
Currently, not only the wings but also the fuselage of the Boeing 787 passenger aircraft is produced with carbon fiber composites, but the use of carbon fiber in the production of cars is still low.
President Lee said he heard carmakers say that all automotive parts can be produced with carbon fiber if the price of the material can be cut in half. Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors have an annual production capacity of 7 million units, and if 10 kg of carbon fiber is used per unit, the annual production will require 70,000 tons of carbon fiber.
He noted that Toray Advanced Materials can lower production costs if it is fitted with a mass production system to cope with the creation of a new demand.
Toray Advanced Materials plans to change the newly-built third carbon fiber plant into an integrated production system producing raw materials and finished products on one production line, a move to lower production costs.
Toray Advanced Materials is wholly owned by Toray of Japan. In 1999, Toray acquired Toray Saehan, a joint venture between Japan’s Toray Inc. and Korea Saehan Inc.
Taekwang Industrial and Hyosung have joined the domestic carbon fiber market. Toray Advanced Materials, which began to produce carbon fiber in 1971, now controls 40 percent of the global carbon fiber market.
Toray Inc. now receives only a 5 percent dividend equivalent against its initial investment and reinvests the remaining profits into the expansion project, said Lee, adding that Toray Advanced Materials seems like a Korean company because it pays taxes and creates jobs in Korea.
Lee is serving as the president of Toray Advanced Materials for a 13th consecutive year.