TOKYO (March 13, 2:45 p.m. ET) — Japanese plastics and chemicals maker Toray Industries Inc. is expanding global capacity for plastic-based carbon fibers, and also is working to developed bio-based nylon resins.
Tokyo-based Toray will spend 45 billion yen ($550 million) to add capacity for polyacrylonitrile (PAN)-based carbon fibers at sites in Japan, South Korea, France and the United States. The project includes a new production line with annual capacity of almost 6 million pounds set to open in Decatur, Ala., in late 2014.
In a March 9 news release, Toray officials said global PAN-based carbon fiber demand reached more than 80 million pounds in 2011 and is expected to grow at a 15 percent annual rate. The U.S. expansion is needed because of the growing market in natural gas pressure vessels for use in shale gas production.
In nylon, Toray has partnered with Ajinomoto Inc. — a Tokyo-based maker of food, pharmaceuticals and specialty chemicals — to develop nylon resins using amino acids from plant-based materials. Fibers made with the resulting nylon resins have the same feel, strength and heat resistance as fibers made with standard nylon resins, officials said.
The two firms already have carried out successful test production of the materials using the amino acid lysine and plan to look at additional plastic and textile applications, officials said in a news release.
Toray employs almost 7,000 worldwide and posted sales of almost $19 billion in 2011. Ajinomoto employs more than 3,000 and had sales of almost $15 billion last year.