DuPont plans to build a new US$500 million Kevlar facility in Berkeley County. Kevlar is a fiber so strong it can be used to strengthen bridges, build airplanes and stop a bullet. The company plans to break ground this month on the new plant adjacent to its existing site near Cypress Gardens on the Cooper River and start production in 2010. The end product from the plant will essentially look like oversized spools of yellow thread wound around large bobbins. It is then sold to manufacturers that weave it into a usable substance.
The demand for Kevlar; a product five times stronger than steel, but light as a feather, is on the rise in part because of world conflicts, safety and energy-consumption concerns, and the rapidly growing economy in Asia. The product was introduced in 1965, and is also used as a lightweight alternative to steel and aluminum for the construction of airplanes. By keeping the weight down, energy efficiency is improved. Kevlar is also a common composite for infrastructure such as high-fiber cables. In the rapidly growing city of Shanghai, for instance, overtaxed bridges have been wrapped in blankets of Kevlar to provide structural support.
The expansion will ultimately increase the company's global production capacity by more than 25%. DuPont already invested an additional $50 million at its Spruance plant in Richmond, Va., and Northern Ireland facilities to increase Kevlar polymer production.