SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers and BMW Group Invest $200M

2013_IAA_BMW_i3_Honeycomb_structureAfter already investing $100 million in the facility, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers and BMW Group announced plans to invest $200 million to triple carbon fiber (CF) capacity at their plant in Moses Lake, WA, in order to handle the high demand from the automotive sector.  According to Chemical Week, the Moses Lake Plant currently has an annual output of approximately m.t./year of CF exclusively for the BMW i model. They will double capacity this summer when they commission the third and fourth production lines at the site.

The $200 million investment will go toward the fifth and sixth lines which will triple capacity to 9,000 m.t./year, with expansion to be completed by early 2015. Moses Lake will then be the largest carbon manufacturing complex. All of the energy for Moses Lake plant is generated from hydropower. The plant location was originally chosen because of the availability of the renewable energy source at a competitive cost. After the expansion, automated production processes will make it possible for BMW to use CF materials in other model series at competitive costs and in large quantities.

Zintro expert Canute Rego  is an automotive after-sales manager with over 30 years of experience in the industry. He says, “CF has been proven to make a component stronger and lighter, eventually making our vehicles very fuel efficient and durable.  On the other hand, we will be less dependent on iron ore /bauxite etc. CF will be in great demand and will be the material used in most of the components other than the automobile industry.  It’s going to be in heavy demand, and it’s time to setup more manufacturing plants.”

Robert Simonis, an executive and lean expert with global success leading operations and implementing TPS at the strategic level, agrees. The Zintro expert says, “Demand for CF will continue to grow in the automotive and other sectors. It is extremely strong and lightweight, but at the same time can be formed into geometries and shapes that challenge other materials. As the cost of CF declines, it can be used to replace existing materials, particularly in applications of high stress such as wheels, and allow weight savings that are needed for fuel economy. This strong and lightweight material also allows design freedom because it is thinner and can be formed into extreme shapes, so it will be the material of choice for designers of new vehicles and other products. The expertise that the manufacturers in Moses Lake, WA, have developed will ensure BMW a technological advantage in the future. There is little danger of overproduction since demand will far outstrip supply as long as cost drops or remains stable for the foreseeable future.”

Sales and asset recovery CEO Dave Hancock shares his opinion about the expansion of the Moses Lake facility. “Putting your eggs into one basket is to gamble on losing the basket, especially when your basket cannot service all markets, logistically. Where Washington has WSPP; the southeast has TVA, both federally supported utilities. Further, reliance on only hydro power can starve your production during a peak usage crisis. Be creative, develop and build your own secondary power sources.”

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