CFM's Leap jet engine, which has a CFRP fan case and blades produced using resin transfer moulding, is going into production this year.
Belgium-headquartered chemicals giant Solvay is expanding its composite materials capacities with a new resin facility and an upgraded site in Germany.
The firm said the move was designed to meet growing demand from customers in the aviation sector for lightweighting materials and services for parts like engine fan blades.
Located in ?stringen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, Solvay's site will produce and supply materials to projects including the Leap engine produced by CFM International, the joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines, for Airbus programmes and Boeing.
Solvay will produce its unique infusion resins and resins for reinforced composite materials from this facility, which is expected to go into production in the second quarter of 2017.
Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, Solvay’s CEO, said: “This new facility and the site's upgraded infrastructure further strengthen Solvay's long-term support to its customers in response to their growing demand for its industry-leading lightweighting materials and technology.”
A spokeswoman for Solvay said the investment in the project at ?stringen is in the “mid-double-digit millions”. Investments at the facility since it was inaugurated in 1989 total approximately €150m.
Solvay expects the production capacity at ?stringen to meet demands in Europe. The spokeswoman said: “For the kind of technology involved and the capacity for the industry, we can say the new capacity will support key program ramp rates for the Leap engine for several years. Solvay is counting on the success of the Leap program and the intention is to duplicate this new German facility in the US ahead of an increase in program demands.”
Solvay has other composites manufacturing facilities in the UK, and Jean-Pierre Clamadieu was reported by Bloomberg in August to be expressing doubt about the UK as an attractive investment location after the Brexit referendum. “Long term, it will create some questions on where we should put strategic investments,” Clamadieu said in the Bloomberg report. “It will not be a positive for future investment in this country.”
However, the decision to invest in ?stringen, Germany, was not connected with the Brexit vote, and was made long before the referendum, said the spokeswoman. “We manufacture resin infusion products also in Anaheim, in California, and in Wrexham, UK,” she said. “But this new facility in ?stringen is unique. We expect this centre and our site to be a key part of our manufacturing network for the next decades. Its location in Europe positions us to be a preferred source of supplier of primary structure materials close to our customers in the region. The capacity will be putting us ahead of market growth. Therefore we do see us in the lead for resin infusion products.”
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