TOKYO -- Teijin will supply carbon-fiber composite materials to Airbus for a next-generation midsize aircraft due out as early as this year, aiming to strengthen the duo's relationship and tap a growing market.
Carbon-fiber composites, made by mixing carbon filaments with plastics or other resins, are 10 times as strong as steel and 75% lighter. They are gradually replacing aluminum alloys in airplane construction, reducing weight and improving fuel efficiency.
Airbus chose to use carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer in A350 XWB prototypes. It is expected to employ the material in primary structures, such as the fuselage and wings, for the first time. As soon as safety is confirmed, Teijin will start providing materials for commercial units.
The Japanese company has supplied fiber to Airbus for aircraft frames. It plans to deepen this relationship by providing not only materials, but also major components.
Airbus plans to put the first A350 XWB into commercial service this year. It has already received orders for roughly 820 units worldwide, a tally that reportedly includes 50 from Japan Airlines.
Demand for aircraft carbon fiber is on the rise, with the market seen doubling between 2013 and 2020. Teijin has supplied more than half of the carbon-fiber materials for the Airbus A380 large passenger plane.
Midsize airplanes with 250 to 400 seats are seen accounting for 20-30% of the total aircraft market in the future, with demand for 7,300 units expected over the next 20 years. Carbon-fiber market leader Toray Industries already supplies composites for Boeing's 787 family of midsize planes, and Teijin hopes to use its relationship with Airbus to compete.