Apr 17 2007
With construction of the new Group research center in Meitingen near Augsburg, the SGL Group – The Carbon Company – is strengthening its innovation power as one of the world’s largest producers of carbon and graphite. The new center of the Group’s research, named Technology and Innovation (T&I) and located at the SGL Group’s largest site worldwide, will combine all the Company’s research and development activities.
The Company is investing approx. €8 million in constructing the center, which is to have a state-of-the-art infrastructure. In the medium term, the number of scientists is expected to increase from 80 at present to 120.
The SGL Group established T&I already in 2005 with members of staff from the three operating Business Units. However, at that time, the scientists were based at various sites worldwide. In addition to improving the exchange and transfer of knowledge between the researchers and developers, the center is also meant to promote intensive cooperation with institutes, universities and other companies in the field of carbon. 15 new jobs are to be created for this purpose alone, which can be used by university scientists as part of research projects.
In particular, the research, development and production of market-ready carbon fibers and carbon fiber products, i.e. carbon fiber composites, is a key target of the T&I activities. Besides a few North American and Asian companies, the SGL Group is the only German and European manufacturer of carbon fibers and covers the entire value chain from precursor to composite. Carbon fiber is the key material for the worldwide exponential increase in lightweight construction.
Demand for carbon fibers has risen steadily since 2000. It now exceeds worldwide production capacities. In 1995, around 14,500 metric tons of carbon fibers were processed globally. At the end of 2005, this had increased to 21,000 metric tons and by 2010 the figure is expected to be 45,000 metric tons. This represents annual growth of between 10 and 12%.
By 2012, the global carbon fiber market is expected to double its volume to around USD 2 billion per year compared to the current level. The market volume for the further refined carbon fiber composite CFRP (carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic) is expected to increase from today USD 6 billion up to approximately USD 10 billion in 2010.
Commissioning of modern prepreg production site
The Meitingen site is to be consistently expanded as a central location for the processing of carbon fibers. As a result, it will make the key contribution to the realignment of the Company in the field of carbon fibers and composites. In December 2006, one of the world’s most modern facilities was commissioned for production of 1,000 metric tons of directly processable prepregs at this site.
Prepregs are carbon fiber materials that are impregnated with resins and used for the manufacture of carbon fiber composite components. The new production facility allows the range to extend to larger applications from niches into already established and booming markets. As a result, the SGL Group supplies leading manufacturers of wind power stations, for example.
As already announced in the press release as of March 5, 2007, the Company has now exclusively secured long-term supply of raw materials for production of carbon fibers through its joint venture with Lenzing AG, Germany. Therefore, the Company will become independent of the purchase of the precursor.
Furthermore, the SGL Group will start operation of a new carbon fiber production line in August 2007 and is planning two more lines until 2008.
Carbon Composites association founded with partner companies
The Augsburg/Swabia region where the Meitingen site is located, has now become one of the leading centers for carbon fiber technology in Germany. To benefit optimally from this region’s expertise, to increasingly develop global markets with product innovations and to create new jobs, the SGL Group in conjunction with other well-known companies and research institutes from Southern Germany, which are also involved with composites on an international level, has founded the “Carbon Composites association”. The purpose of this association is to systematically network experts from the worlds of science and industry, to bundle competencies, to accelerate the expansion and development of the technological infrastructure on industrial and scientific levels and to promote the relevant training and qualification measures. In addition to the SGL Group, the founding members are: German research centre for aeronautics and space (DLR) Stuttgart, EADS, Eurocopter, IHK Schwaben, KUKA, MT
Aerospace, the city of Augsburg, the Technical University of Stuttgart and the University of Augsburg.