The Technology Research Institute (ITRI, 工研院) on Friday entered into a partnership with US aerostructures manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems to develop advanced carbon fiber — a move that is expected to boost the competitiveness of Taiwanese companies in this field.
Johnsee Lee (李鍾熙), president of the Hsinchu-based ITRI, signed an agreement with Spirit AeroSystems’ vice president Peter Wu (吳洵) in which the two sides will conduct joint research on developing carbon fiber technology.
Carbon fiber reinforced polymers or plastics are very strong, light and expensive materials with many uses, including in the aerospace industry.
Their high strength-to-weight ratio also makes the products — known as composites — useful in making automobiles, sailboats, high-end bicycles and motorcycles.
Composited are increasingly used in small consumer electronics and other goods, including racquet frames and golf clubs, because new manufacturing techniques have cut their cost and the time it takes to make them.
While Taiwanese tennis racket and bicycle manufacturers have successfully used carbon fiber in their high-end products, ITRI expects the deal with Spirit AeroSystems to lead Taiwanese companies’ to develop more advanced products, such as composites for aircraft.
Spirit AeroSystems, a spin-off of the US aircraft manufacturer Boeing, is the biggest US aircraft composites maker, with between 60 percent and 70 percent of the market in the US.
Lee said that ITRI expects to get certificates for their research results from the US’ Federal Aviation Administration and pass the technology to manufacturers for mass production within the next three to five years.
“Through cooperation with Spirit AeroSystems, Taiwan’s carbon fiber manufacturers will have a good chance of gaining certification from the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration. This will help Taiwan make a breakthrough from the current limitations it faces in technological know-how and certification,” Lee said.
As chief scientist of Spirit AeroSystems, Wu said that through cooperation with ITRI, his company would transfer advanced carbon fiber technology to Taiwanese manufacturers.
Japan currently dominates the market in high value carbon fiber, especially composites for aircraft. ITRI and the Ministry of Economic Affairs have long been trying to find a way to help Taiwan gain greater market share.