Steadily increasing prices for energy and raw materials as well as growing demand for increasingly scarce resources require ever greater use of energy-saving, high-performance materials. Carbon fibers are indispensable here. They make it possible to manufacture materials which are both considerably lighter and more robust, and feature exceptional properties.
One important example is the new generation of airplanes such as the Airbus A380, Boeing 787 and Airbus A350. As a result of the heavy stress-factor, the wind energy industry also needs carbon fiber materials for its new blades with spans of up to 60 meters. Carbon fibers are also used for sports equipment such as golf clubs, hockey sticks and tennis racquets as well as kayaks and bicycles. Racing yachts competing for the America’s Cup are now manufactured entirely from carbon, too. Carbon fibers are also becoming more popular for normal yachts as a material with which to produce heavy-stressed parts such as masts. The automotive industry also increasingly focus on this innovative material, initially in the premium vehicles and super sports cars from the major manufacturers. In addition, Carbon fibers are already used in special parts of upper mid-range vehicles.
As early as the end of the 1990s, SGL Carbon began to serve this trend with its development division SGL Technologies (SGL T) in appropriate R&D programs and pilot plants. SGL Carbon is now beginning to see the fruits of this development in the Business Unit Carbon Fibers and Composites (CFC), which has emerged out of the former SGL T. The newly created business unit, which bundles the entire added value chain from carbon fiber to composite material is now being steadily expanded with acquisitions, joint ventures and capital expenditure for new production facilities. CFC is one of the two Business Units combined in SGL Carbon’s “Advanced Materials” Business Area and is an essential driver for future profitable growth. The second Business Unit in Advanced Materials, Graphite Materials and Systems (GMS), manufactures products from specialty graphite for the solar, lithium-ion battery and nuclear power industries, graphite foils for air-conditioning and heat management as well as graphite products for the construction of plants in the chemical and environment industries.
CFC’s strategy aims at the supply of carbon fibers and relevant semi-finished products for customers in industrial applications such as the wind, automotive and sports industries. In recent months, the following steps were taken in this respect:
- As a result of the agreement on a joint venture with Lenzing AG concluded early March 2007, SGL Carbon has now secured long-term supply of the raw materials it requires for production of carbon fibers. In this joint venture, a special polyacrylonitrile fiber precursor, the respective raw material for carbon fibers, is to be manufactured. Therefore, the Company will become independent of the purchase of the precursor. The joint venture is subject to final approval of the german antitrust authorities.
- In addition, SGL Carbon has now successfully launched on the market a high-quality multi-filament carbon fiber as part of its strategic alliance with the Japanese Mitsubishi Rayon Corp. (MRC). Compared to the low-filament fibers common on the market, production of these carbon fibers is particularly cost-effective while maintaining the high standard of quality. Long-term purchase agreements have already been concluded with a major customer from the wind energy industry.
- In order to satisfy the increasing demand from customers worldwide, SGL Carbon has started and implemented various capital expenditures to increase its carbon fiber capacity. Already in 2006, work began on construction of an additional carbon fiber production line in the plant in Inverness/Scotland. This will start production in August 2007. A further line for Inverness is already being planned and will be ready in 2008. Moreover, a third line is planned for 2008 as part of another joint venture with Lenzing AG in Germany. In the mid-term planning over the next five years, SGL Carbon will spend a total budget of €80 million for this capital expenditure measures. This will lead to carbon fiber capacity increases from 2,000 tons at present to 6,000 tons.
- In December 2006, SGL Carbon commissioned one of the most modern plants for production of carbon fiber prepreg in Meitingen. Beside multi-axial fabrics, prepeg is an important carbon fiber-based fabric product, which is used in a number of different industries. For example, with this product the Company supplies also one of the leading manufacturers of wind energy plants worldwide.
- In January 2007, SGL Carbon acquired a majority interest in F.A. Kümpers GmbH. As a result of this joint venture, the Company has acquired innovative technologies for processing its carbon fibers in multi-axial fabrics.
These allow direct access to the large market potentials for carbon fibers, particularly in the wind energy and automotive industries. The Company is thus planning to become one of the leading manufacturer for carbon fibers and carbon fiber composites in both industries.
SGL Carbon is the only European manufacturer in the highly concentrated global carbon fiber market and plans to further expand its position with carbon fibers and composites on the basis of acquisitions, joint ventures and capital expenditure.