SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, BMW Group’s joint venture with SGL Group, will invest $200 million to triple the capacity of its carbon fiber plant in Moses Lake, WA (USA).
The site expansion, scheduled to be completed by early 2015, will make the plant in MosesLake the world’s largest carbon fiber plant. With the anticipated creation of 120 new jobs, the headcount at the joint venture in MosesLake is going to rise from currently 80 to about 200 people. Due to the automated production processes, the expansion of the site in MosesLake will make it possible for the BMW Group to apply carbon fiber material also in other model series in the future, at competitive costs and in large quantities.
At present, the MosesLake plant operates two production lines, exclusively for BMW i, with an annual output of approx. 3,000 tons of carbon fiber. Already this summer, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers will commission a third and fourth production line in MosesLake, which are currently being built, thus doubling the plant’s capacity to 6,000 tons per year. Today’s groundbreaking ceremony for a fifth and sixth production line has been the first step toward tripling capacities to 9,000 tons annually in the medium term. The energy needed for the carbon fiber production is fully generated from hydropower.
The carbon fiber plant in MosesLake is a key element in the strategy pursued by the two companies, which anticipates the industrialized large-series production of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) for the application in future vehicle concepts. Up to now, carbon fiber produced in MosesLake is exclusively used for the BMW i models. Since the start of the year, the Leipzig plant has built over 5,000 BMW i3 vehicles. At present, the production output stands at 100 units a day. Furthermore, the BMW Group has been applying the ultra-lightweight high-tech material also in its BMW M models for the past ten years.
As part of their joint venture agreement, the BMW Group and the SGL Group invested an initial 100 million dollars at their MosesLake site by 2013, creating 80 new jobs.
The production of carbon fiber requires a great amount of energy. Accordingly, decisive factors for the set up of the carbon fiber plant in MosesLake included the availability of renewable hydropower as well as competitive energy costs in WashingtonState. The availability of skilled workers also had an influence on the decision in favor of the location, which was taken in April 2010. The groundbreaking ceremony for the plant was in July 2010, the opening of the production site in September 2011.
Production of carbon fiber composites
The production of carbon fiber composites for automotive manufacturing requires several process steps: The necessary precursor, which is based on polyacrylnitrile fiber, is made by a joint venture between SGL Group and the Japanese company Mitsubishi Rayon in Otake, Japan. In a next step, polyacrylnitrile fiber is turned into the actual carbon fiber in MosesLake. This material is then processed at the second joint venture site in Wackersdorf, Germany, and turned into textile carbon fiber layers, the starting point for the production of CFRP body parts at the BMW plants in Landshut and Leipzig. In the BMW i models, CFRP already holds a significant share in the mix of materials, a first at this scope and in series production. The joint venture gives the BMW Group access to this innovative key material in the long term. The SGL Group provides their expertise in high-performance materials and their experience with carbon fiber-based materials.
SGL Group is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of carbon-based products and materials. It has a comprehensive portfolio ranging from carbon and graphite products to carbon fibers and composites. Products from SGL Group are used predominantly in the steel, aluminum, automotive and chemical industries as well as in the semiconductor, solar and LED sectors and in lithium-ion batteries. Carbon-based materials and products are also being used increasingly in the wind power, aerospace and defense industries.[wzslider height=”400″ lightbox=”true”]