GE Aviation is constructing a full-rate production raw material facility in Huntsville, Alabama, that when fully operational will produce up to 20 metric tons (20,000 KG) of ceramic matrix composite (CMC) material a year, the company said.
GE Aviation is investing more than USD 200m to construct two factories on 100 acres in Huntsville. One plant will mass produce silicon carbide (SiC) ceramic fiber, the first high volume production operation in the United States. Supported by USD 21.9m funding from the US Air Force Research Lab Title III Office, this plant will dramatically increase US capability to produce SiC ceramic fiber capable of withstanding temperatures of 2400F.
The adjacent factory on the same campus will use the SiC ceramic fiber to make unidirectional CMC prepreg necessary to fabricate the CMC components. The GE Aviation Huntsville team is currently 24 employees. Once fully operational, the Huntsville facilities will employ up to 300 people.
The only other large-scale SiC ceramic fiber factory is operated by NGS Advanced Fibers in Toyama, Japan. Formed in 2012, NGS is a joint company of Nippon Carbon, GE, and Safran of France. The US SiC fiber plant will license fiber-producing technology from NGS Advanced Fibers.
NGS is in the final qualification phase of their expanded factory to increase capacity to meet growing worldwide demand. The SiC fiber plant in Huntsville will complement the growing capacity at NGS.
Advanced Silicon Carbide Fiber, a GE Aviation joint venture, will sell fiber manufactured in Huntsville to the Department of Defense, GE businesses, Safran, and other external customers. The NGS partners will have the opportunity to become equity partners in the Huntsville plant.