TORAY TO SPEND $70 MILLION IN PAN CARBON FIBER GROWTH

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ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Reacting to market demands, Toray Industries Inc. said it will build a $70 million line in Decatur, Ala., to produce 3.6 million pounds of polyacrylonitrile-based carbon fiber per year.

A newly established unit, Toray Carbon Fibers America Inc., should begin manufacturing and marketing the fiber in April 1999.

By that time, Toray plans to have its Ehime, Japan, plant producing 9.4 million pounds per year and its 70 percent-owned Société des Fibres de Carbone site in France making 1.6 million pounds per year, the company said at the International Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering Symposium and Exhibition, held May 5-8 in Anaheim.

The current fiber shortage affects those using carbon fiber to prepreg, weave, pultrude or filament-wind products, and particularly hits those who have accepted lower-priced commercial grades in the past. With supply extremely tight, the full-price aerospace-grade material continues to go to prime contractors and their suppliers.

Toray is leasing 50 acres from longtime business partner Monsanto Co. of St. Louis. Monsanto has developed about one-half of its 600-acre Decatur site, where it makes acrylic fibers and intermediate chemicals for nylon.

The Ehime plant will supply precursor material to the new Decatur facility.

In addition to Tokyo-based Toray, units of Amoco Corp., Hexcel Corp., Akzo Nobel NV, Zoltek Cos., Toho Rayon Co. Ltd., Mitsubishi Rayon Co. Ltd. and SGL Carbon Group make carbon fiber.

Toray estimated the world demand for PAN-based carbon fiber at 21.4 million pounds in 1996, and projected demand rising to 30.5 million pounds in 2000 and 42.4 million pounds in 2005.