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With demand for carbon fibre soaring in automotive applications, US company SGL has announced that it’ll be tripling production capacity at its Moses Lake facility in the States to cope with the increased demand.

SGL’s joint venture with BMW already runs two production lines at Moses Lake exclusively for BMW i vehicles, primarily the BMW i3, with annual carbon fibre output being around 3,000 tonnes. A third and fourth production line is currently being built, which will double the plant’s capacity to 6,000 tonnes per year.

Now, the partners have announced further site expansion – an investment of US$200 million will see a fifth and sixth production line being built, with completion targeted by early 2015. This will triple capacity to 9,000 tonnes annually in the medium term. When completed, it’ll make the facility the world’s largest carbon fibre plant.

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Currently, the carbon fibre produced at the plant is used for BMW i3 production, but the companies say that applications involving carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP) are projected to grow in future vehicle concepts and believe the material offers new opportunities in lightweight construction for an eco-friendly mobility.

The production of carbon fibre 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. The polyacrylnitrile fiber is then turned into the actual carbon fiber in Moses Lake.

The 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.