Compression molder R3 Composites Inc. is opening a $12 million factory in Indiana to get into a new market in the composites industry, making non-woven materials for the thermoplastic and thermoset markets.
The new subsidiary, Carver Non-Woven Technologies LLC, plans to start commercial production in July at a plant in Fremont, Ind., in a highly automated production line it says is designed to lower costs and boost quality.
R3 President Mark Glidden said the company has made sizable investments with those goals in mind, including setting up what he calls an industry first network of quality testing in India and Bangladesh for Carver's jute fiber raw materials.
“From the start, we strategically positioned Carver's focus on design and technology in order to significantly raise the bar on non-woven product quality,” said Glidden, who is also president of Carver.
The Fremont plant will make non-woven reinforcements for a variety of thermoplastic and thermoset materials for products like door panels, package trays and underbody shields. End markets include automotive, recreational vehicles, construction and office furniture.
He said Carver believes its manufacturing process is more automated than typical in the industry, allowing production speeds of 2,200 kilograms per hour, compared with the more typical 1,000 kg/hour.
“Because of the way we manufacture the equipment, we will have a greater output than anybody can produce,” Glidden said.
A lot of the programs Carver is planning will use a combination of jute fiber and PET resin, so the firm set up what it calls the “first comprehensive supply-chain management program” with bast fiber suppliers in India and Bangladesh to do full quality testing at farms and distribution points throughout the two countries, before shipping to the United States.
“It's something we spent a tremendous amount of time planning,” Glidden said. “We don't believe anybody is doing that right now.”
“Since jute fibers have a single harvest per year and since shipping to the U.S. Midwest takes six to eight weeks, supply-chain management is really important to assure higher quality, longer fibers with good and consistent strength values are received,” the company said in a March 22 news release.
The University of Calcutta will provide inspection and lot testing, the company said.
Carver said the new plant, which will employ 65, will “be the first to bring carbon fiber non-wovens to market at considerably lower costs than conventional wrap-and-resonate processes.”
R3, based in Grabill, Ind., is already in the composites market, manufacturing products with thermoset sheet-molding compounds and glass-mat thermoplastic composites, as well as custom compounding its own SMC.
The non-wovens from the Carver factory will both be used by R3 and sold in the North American composites market.
R3 has 19 molding machines ranging from 400 to 4,400 metric tons at the Grabill plant, and can produce some of the largest compression molded parts in North America.
Glidden said the company could spend up to $17 million on the project, with the additional money available for expansion, including in Texas or Mexico if regional demand requires.