Mitsubishi Chemical to Merge Carbon Fibers Businesses

05.01.2015 -

Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings plans to merge its carbon fiber-related businesses, currently part of separate group companies, during 2015.

The Japanese conglomerate said the move is aimed at better leveraging the advantages of its group companies' products in advanced-technology fields such as special pipes to pump up petroleum, rare earths and other resources from the ocean bottom, as well as components for satellites.

Another intent is to help Mitsubishi compete with other Japanese manmade fibers producers, including Toray and Teijin.

In particular, plans call for the carbon fiber businesses of subsidiary Mitsubishi Plastics to be integrated into another subsidiary, Mitsubishi Rayon.

While the former produces highly heat-resistant fibers for satellites and industrial robots, the latter focuses on high tenacity products for automotive and aeronautics applications.

With the integration of their carbon fiber businesses, the Mitsubishi group companies will share knowledge between their research and development departments. The merger is also expected to help utilize the capabilities of Mitsubishi Plastics, which is said to possess expertise rival companies lack.

The Japanese player said it expects the fibers merger to help advance research and development in utilization of ocean bottom resources. Mitsubishi Plastics is also developing pipes for ocean bottom research in cooperation with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology.

In ocean bottom research, special pipes are extended from vessels at the surface to seabeds for drilling. The government wants to take samples of resources in seabeds at least 4,000 meters deep, but the manufacture of stronger, lighter pipes for this purpose remains a challenge.

The expanded Mitsubishi Rayon, including the newly incorporated plastics arm, will seek to develop special pipes by combining the two types of carbon fibers to make products that will be lighter without sacrificing strength.

Toray, Teijin and Mitsubishi Rayon hold a combined share of about 70% of the global market for carbon fibers; however, while the first two have close business ties with major aircraft manufacturers, such as Boeing in the US and Airbus in Europe, Mitsubishi Rayon is said to lag its rivals in this application. At the same time, players in countries such as South Korea, have also improved their technological capabilities.