Materials maker Solvay SA has increased capacity for long-fiber compounds in Belgium and has expanded a U.S. research and development center.
The investment in more capacity for Xencor-brand long-fiber thermoplastic (LFT) compounds was made at Solvay's plant in Oudenaarde, officials with the Brussels-based firm said in a news release. The R&D expansion took place in Alpharetta, Ga.
Officials described Xencor as "one of the key pillars" in Solvay's lightweighting portfolio, which also includes short-fiber compounds and continuous carbon-fiber composites. The materials "open up new lightweighting potential" for aluminum die-cast replacement in next-generation electric vehicles, they added.
Xencor LFT compounds can be based on nylon, polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) or other materials. Potential areas where Xencor LFT can replace metal include braking and steering, electric-drive units, inverters and battery module protection.
Solvay also recently introduced SolvaLite-brand 714 prepregs, which officials said were "an important addition" to its broad portfolio of composite materials for the auto industry. The prepregs are unidirectional carbon-fiber and woven-fabric products pre-impregnated with SolvaLite-brand 714 epoxy resin.
Officials added that the new prepregs offer fast-cure cycles and have been optimized for making auto components, such as body panels at short compression molding cycle times.
The new prepregs "have been specially developed to ensure strong product robustness in large-scale industrial compression molding processes and deliver high structural part performance," Product Manager Greg Kelly said in the release.
At present, the new prepregs are made in Europe and will be commercially available worldwide beginning in the second quarter of 2022. Solvay will officially launch and introduce the new product family to the auto market during the JEC World International Composites Show in Paris from May 3-5.
Solvay employs more than 23,000 worldwide and posted sales of $11 billion in 2021. In March, the firm announced plans to split itself into two public companies, including one making specialty materials that would include plastics and composites.