Carbon-fiber manufacturer Zoltek Corp. has taken a step toward growing its carbon fiber prepreg capabilities by expanding into a new 135,000 ft2 facility near St. Louis, Mo. The new facility will house Zoltek’s prepreg manufacturing and new Technical Center.
The company says it is making the move in response to the growing demand of a low-cost carbon fiber prepreg supply in wind energy and other applications. “Our strategy has been to commercialize carbon fiber and broaden its use in industrial applications through low-cost and supply availability”, says CEO Zsolt Rumy. “Unfortunately, the current carbon fiber prepreg supply is fragmented and geared towards aerospace markets rather than industrial use. We are addressing this shortfall by consolidating the supply chain and forward integrating into prepreg manufacturing for select industrial applications.”
St. Louis is home to Zoltek’s headquarters and one of their four carbon fiber manufacturing facilities. The new location will also serve as a technical center for carbon-fiber applications, specifically targeting wind energy and automotive applications.
Wind energy is a leading application for Zoltek’s prepreg carbon fiber due to its unique and inherent characteristics (high-stiffness, high-strength, lightweight). Recent trends in wind energy have spurred wind-blade manufactures to create longer turbine blades. Carbon-fiber composites have proven ideal for wind blade turbine reinforcement, letting longer blades capture more wind energy, even at lower wind speeds.
Automotive is a growing application for carbon fibers, where the strength-to-weight ratio of carbon fibers enables vehicles to be lighter weight and therefore more fuel-efficient. Other applications include offshore drilling, infrastructure repair, marine, and other applications requiring a high strength and light-weight material.
In addition to the two production facilities in St. Louis, Zoltek has carbon fiber manufacturing facilities in Hungary, Mexico, and Texas.