Pacific Gateway Magazine Introduces TCA
March 07, 2013For two decades, Toray Composites America has pioneered the use of carbon fiber products to build commercial airplanes in the U.S.
A subsidiary of the Tokyo-based Toray Industries, the 24/7 operation employs about 400 people at its 25-acre manufacturing plant in the Port’s Fedrickson Industrial Area. Originally established to provide “just-in-time” delivery of product for the tail section of the Boeing Company’s 777 commercial airplanes, the plant today is the sole supplier of the primary structure material for Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner.
The 787 is the first aircraft to have all its structural components – from fuselage to wings to tail- built from Toray’s carbon fiber composite product, said Dave Manger, Toray’s compliance manager.
“If you took the engines off and the landing gear off the 787, the rest of the plane you see would be Toray material,” he said.
Carbon fiber composite is lighter than aluminum and stronger than steel, the traditional building materials for commercial aircraft. According to Manger, Boeing estimates a 20 percent fuel savings from building the commercial jet almost entirely from Toray’s material.
Toray imports carbon fiber material from affiliate companies in Japan and Alabama, and impregnates the fiber with an epoxy resin to create a unidirectional tape. The finished product is rolled up and frozen to prevent the resin from curing. With limited freezer capacity on site, much of the finished product is stored in cold storage facilities in the Port industrial area.
“We seek out business all over the world because carbon fiber composites will be the choice to replace aluminum and steel in the future,” Manger said. “The 787 shows it can be used to make airplanes that are stronger and lighter. The material is expected to last at least 50 years, and it won’t corrode.”
About half of Toray’s product is exported, Manger said. While most is shipped to Boeing facilities and suppliers around the globe, the rest is sold to other commercial and general aircraft companies, manufacturers of such sporting equipment as golf clubs, hockey sticks and bicycle frames, and industrial products for the automotive, transportation and medical industries.