Fast on the heels of opening a new plant in nearby Hangzhou, China, Owens Corning has announced it will launch a composites center in Shanghai.
The center, due to open in 2012, will employ scientists and engineers to provide composite prototyping, materials testing, design and technical support to customers in China, the firm said.
The center also will focus on new uses, particularly in renewable energy, residential and commercial building and vehicle components.
Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning announced the plan at the China International Composites Industrial Technical Expo, held Sept. 7-9 in Shanghai.
The Hangzhou plant, which opened in March, is the company's fourth in China. It is dedicated to the firm's patented Advantex glass formulation, a boron-free product with high mechanical strength.
“Materials science, especially for composites, is one of today's most powerful technology drivers,” said Jean-Marc Sinkora, vice president and managing director of Owens Corning's Composites Solutions Business in Greater China.
“Owens Corning works closely with customers and designers to help them better understand the benefits of using composites and how they may replace older technologies,” he added.
Once opened, the center will be one of six throughout the world. According to Sam Chi, commercial director of Owens Corning's global wind-energy division, it will help the company develop new markets.
“Out of the whole materials industry, only 2 percent is composites,” Chi said. “There is opportunity in the 98 percent.”
Chi hopes the solutions they come up with will help develop the composites business as a whole and locate gaps in the Chinese market, in particular.
“There are a lot of untouched applications,” he said. “Some of them are maybe not new in the world, but are new in China.”
One example, he said, is tanks used to store gasoline at gas stations. In the rest of the world, the tanks are made using composites. China relies on steel.
“This is becoming an environmental issue,” Chi said. Tanks are corroding and beginning to leak. Chi sees a market in replacing the steel with composites.
The center will help the company identify more opportunities said spokeswoman Beth Rettig.
“One third of global composites demand is coming out of China,” she said.