Having invested ¥700 million in expanding its VECTRAN polyarylate superfiber manufacturing facilities, Kuraray Co., Ltd. commenced full-scale operations on November 5, 2007, at Kuraray Saijo Co., Ltd. (Saijo City, Ehime Prefecture). With the facility expansion, VECTRAN's annual production capacity was raised from 600 tons to 1,000 tons.
VECTRAN fiber is commonly portrayed as a super-high-performance fiber with ultra-high strength and a high Young's modulus. VECTRAN is characterized by its low creep, low moisture absorption properties, high tenacity at extremely low temperatures, abrasion resistance in wet conditions and other properties that competing types of superfibers do not carry.
In addition to its existing applications, such as its use in the fisheries industry, VECTRAN is increasingly employed in new applications in various industries in Japan. New applications include earphone cables, tension members for stratospheric airship sheathing, volleyball and tennis nets and ropes, plastic reinforcement materials, ropes for marine research and experimental sacks for transporting water by sea. Overseas, VECTRAN fiber was selected for the special airbags used on NASA's 1997 Mars landing vehicle, and then again in 2004 for the special airbags used on the Mars rovers. Recently, VECTRAN fiber has also been used for protective gloves, ropes and ground fabric for sheathing, all of which require VECTRAN's very high performance attributes.
The acquisition of the VECTRAN high-performance polyarylate fiber business of Celanese Advanced Materials Inc. (CAMI), based in South Carolina in the United States, allowed Kuraray to directly participate in the large-scale European and U.S. markets, which significantly helped the Company's information-gathering activities in terms of meeting market needs in a more timely and accurate fashion. In addition, thanks to the integrated manufacturing and sales structure that Kuraray has established over the years, it is now possible to accelerate the expansion of its VECTRAN business, based on the geographical centers of Japan, the United States and Europe.
With the 400-ton increase in its annual production capacity, Kuraray will accelerate global expansion of the VECTRAN business. The Company is aiming for further growth in the civil engineering, construction material and fiber optic cabling industries as well as in new areas of application.