Carbon Fiber Poised to Revolutionize Ohio Industries

Stronger and lighter materials appeal to many industries
Glenn Richardson, managing director of advanced manufacturing, JobsOhio
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Technological advances are having a significant impact on industries involved in manufacturing, improving both products and processes. But something else is becoming just as important: the materials used to make things.

Carbon fiber, in particular, has become the material of choice for several Ohio industries, including automotive, energy, advanced manufacturing, and aerospace and aviation. Carbon fiber is an exceptionally strong material that’s also lightweight. It is five times as strong as steel, but weighs about two-thirds less. Carbon fiber is also resistant to chemicals and tolerant of extreme heat. These qualities make it an ideal manufacturing material for many purposes.

Sometimes called “wonder steel,” carbon fiber is not used alone. Instead, it is combined with other materials to create composites, and it is these carbon fiber composites that are used to produce items such as aircraft wings, propeller blades, wind turbine blades, car components, bicycle frames, lacrosse sticks and much more. The cost of manufacturing carbon fiber, however, has made it cost-prohibitive for mass production and cost-sensitive applications.

JobsOhio has made it a strategic priority to reduce the cost of, and foster advancements in, carbon fiber and carbon fiber composites in Ohio. The state is well- positioned to support both the production and use of this material. Ohio’s abundant shale gas provides a local, reliable and reasonably priced feedstock, giving companies the opportunity to develop lower-cost and less energy-intensive methods of manufacturing carbon fiber. The state’s automotive, energy, advanced manufacturing, and aerospace and aviation industries, which already are heavy users of carbon fiber, will need more of it as they discover new applications for its use.

As part of its strategy to foster Ohio’s carbon fiber industry, JobsOhio became a charter member of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI). IACMI is a partnership of industry, academia and government that is focused on the development of carbon fiber and other advanced materials. In connection with IACMI, JobsOhio has now worked on seven projects with Ohio company participation, committing nearly $1.2 million and leveraging an additional $7.1 million in private and IACMI funds. These projects have the potential to create more than 1,600 jobs.

This article originally appeared in the JobsOhio 2017 Annual Report and 2018 Strategic Plan.