The new 37-acre plant is devoted to the manufacture of carbon fiber and PAN precursor.
Four years after the project launch on September 30, 2014, the site is operational and increasing Hexcel’s global carbon fiber production capacity. Hexcel invested 200 million Euros in the plant. It will generate 120 direct jobs and 250 indirect positions. Hexcel’s workforce in France has now risen to 1,200 people with more than 1,000 employees located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
Based at the Osiris Chemicals Industry Platform, the location was chosen by Hexcel due to its proximity to other Hexcel sites, its quality infrastructure and operational excellence and the availability of competitively priced electricity in France.
Operating in synergy with Hexcel’s existing sites in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Les Avenières, a carbon fiber weaving plant in Europe, and Dagneux, manufacturer of prepreg fabrics and carbon fibers, the new plant will create a global ecosystem for the high-performance composite materials sector covering the entire production chain from carbon fiber to resin-impregnated fabrics called prepreg.
Since 2015, Hexcel has invested in all its locations worldwide, largely to support the growing demand for composites and the development of aerospace industry programs such as Airbus (A350 XWB) and Safran (CFM International LEAP engine).
Thierry Merlot, Hexcel President Europe/Asia-Pacific/Middle East/Africa, explained: “We have met the challenges of constructing and transferring PAN and carbon fiber manufacturing technology from our American sites to France, and we are able to respond to the needs of aerospace customers and their growing demand for carbon composite materials. The site has already received its first aerospace certifications.”
Efficient employment and training systems
In 2014, Hexcel signed a regional master agreement with Pôle emploi, the French national employment agency, to support its development and hire over 200 employees for its sites in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region through the implementation of job simulation recruitment (MRS).
Thierry Merlot said: “Hexcel has become more attractive in recent years. The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region has provided support with training. New employees have received customized training courses, including onsite training at Hexcel facilities in the United States and Spain.”
Increased investment in R&D
“Today we are able to invest in production capacity thanks to both organic growth and the acquisition of complementary technologies. Recent acquisitions and partnerships have enabled us to diversify and acquire new technology solutions such as additive manufacturing, adhesives, pultrusion processes and thermoplastics. For this purpose, this year we signed a strategic partnership with Arkema to develop carbon fiber-reinforced thermoplastics and set up a new joint research and development unit in France.”
Hexcel announces the launch of a 3,500m2 R&D center at the Les Avenières site scheduled for the first quarter of 2019 with a focus on new processes and Out of Autoclave technologies. This will support innovations in high-performance composites and continue to grow its market share in composite materials for aerostructure applications.
Thierry Merlot said: “We are entering a highly active phase of research and development in order to design new generation materials and processes for the engines and aircraft of tomorrow.”