Basalt continuous fiber: development of technologies and equipment from the past to the present.

dr. Sergey Osnos

Basalt Fiber & Composite Materials Technology Development Company

Keywords: basalt, basalt continuous fiber, basalt continuous fiber production technologies, production equipment for basalt continuous fiber, basalt continuous fiber materials, basalt continuous fiber composites.


The subject of the present article is basalt continuous fiber (BCF) and technology of its production. The author reviews a history of development of technologies and equipment used for BCF production; he analyzes the modern developments in technologies and answers some questions concerning the economics of BCF production. The purpose of the article is to provide easy-to-understand information about BCF production technologies & equipment and history of its development, as well as to attract the attention of investors to industrial production of BCF and materials on its base.

 Manufacturers of fiber and composite materials have already shown an interest in basalt continuous fiber (BCF). More importantly, consumers do have a great interest in this material.  -This interest is due to the following factors:

• BCF possesses some advantages over glass fiber, including its strength, chemical stability and temperature of application;

• Wide availability and low cost of basalt, which is an initial raw material for BCF production;

• Production is carried out with application of one- phase technology;

• Development of technology & equipment for BCF production during recent years allowed achieving the cost of production as low as the cost of production of E-fiber glass.

In brief, BCF production technology can be introduced as the following sequence of operations:

• Melting of basalt breads into basalt melt;  

• Homogenization of basalt melt and its preparation for production;  

• Forming of basalt melt through a platinum alloy stream bushing assembly;

• Extraction of initial fiber, lubrication and winding on bobbins.

All those operations are quite simple, especially if you consider that primary fusion, homogenization and enrichment of basalt initial raw material was made by ancient volcanoes, i. e. by nature.

Aim technologies: to ensure a good quality of BCF, production stability and the required level of production cost.

BCF production technologies encounter some difficulties, including:

• Various basalts, which are used as a raw material for production, have different characteristics and chemical structure;  

• Melting and forming of basalt melt requires high temperatures;  

• Basalt melts are not transparent for thermal radiation;

All those technological features determine the particular qualities of equipment and bushing assemblies, which are used for BCF production. The experts emphasize that, while BCF production technologies seem to be simple, in practice they are quite complex and require a great deal of know-how.

The basic features of technologies are as follows:

• Selection of basalts breads according to their fiber-forming (long basalts) characteristics, as well as in accordance with application of BCF materials;

• Technological processes of basalt melting, melt homogenization and its preparation for formation in accordance with degree of its amorphism, viscosity and temperature interval;

• Processes of fibers forming through bushing assembly.

To secure achieving the goal of industrial production of high-quality BCF, the whole range of technological features in their complexity are ought to be considered, and special equipment needs to be designed to match the goal.

The history of development of technologies & equipment for BCF production was not easy.

The first samples of BCF were received at the scientific research institute in Ukraine of the Soviet Union in 1959- 61. The thirst samples were rough and inelastic, but as a matter of fact it was already a continuous basalt fiber. The following efforts led to production of continuous basalt fibers of satisfactory quality at labs installation in 1963. It was in 1963, when the first publication about BCF appeared in “The glass and ceramics" magazine.

This publication was followed by a lot of work, which was focused on the three main directions:

• Development of technologies & equipment for BCF production;

• Research of fibers characteristics;

• Development of samples of BCF materials and study of possible fields for their application.

By 1971 a certain amount of experience was gathered, it included research of basalts and their chemical characteristics, characteristics of basalt melts, analyses of BCF durability, its chemical & thermal stability; research of possible fields of application. Some technologies, as well as pilot electric and gas-electric installations were developed for BCF production; samples of BCF materials were received.

Part of this information was published in the collection of scientific articles “Fibrous materials from basalts of Ukraine“in 1971. In 1974 a special scientific division – “The laboratory of basalt fibers” – was organized with a mission to develop basalt technologies & equipment.  Dmitry Dzhigiris and Maria Mahova, who were the enthusiasts of basalts research, headed the lab. That lab was engaged in scientific and practical works on basalt super thin fibers, staple thin fibers and materials on their basis. Development of BCF technologies and design of special equipment were among the main tasks of the lab.

By 1985 the first industrial installation for BCF production was designed and launched. BCF industrial production was started at the "Teplozvukoizoliacia" (means “Heat and sound proofing”) factory near Kiev. Within several years some other plants with annual output of 350 and 500 tons were launched.  

Those installations were equipped with furnace for basalt melting with two feeding installations, which had platinum alloy bushings. The bushing assemblies consisted of flow feeders (hearting tubes) and special bushing plates.

Feeding installations were a significant step forward in development of basalt technologies. This was the first time, when the industrial production of BCF was mastered. Then and for the time being feeding installations are the main type of equipment for BCF production in Russia. This kind of equipment had obvious advantages, so it was able to produce high-quality fibers with diameters of  6, 9 and 13 microns (standard basalt fibers diameter). Along the advantages, this equipment had some shortcomings, such as high energy consumption on unit of production, great weight of bushings and rather low productivity. In Soviet time the main consumer of basalt materials was the defense industry (the armaments industry), so there was no attention paid to the high cost of BCF production. Characteristics of feeding installations are presented in table 1.                                                                                                                   Table1.


Technical Data


Feeding installation 350

Feeding installation 500


Production capacity





Number of bushing





Consumption of gas                                                 

m3/ hour




Consumption of electric power (220 / 380V, 50 Hz) not less





Consumption of technical water (in grader)





CBF production line overall dimension

- width- length- height with a recuperator


6.5 x 21 x 8.5

6.5 x 26 x 8.5

 In 1990- 1992 laboratory specialists led by Victor Kibol built a feeding installation at a factory of fiber glass in a Sudogda Town, Russia. Those two plants were the main manufacturers of BCF in the world at the time. They started to export BCF and BCF materials to Europe, America, Canada and Japan. Scientific research institutes in Kiev and Moscow, as well as fiber glass factories in Berdyansk and Sudogda  were working on development of materials on the basis of BCF, such as  fabrics of the various types, reinforcing nets, road construction nets, composites, profile plastics, armature, pipes, cylinders, tanks, electro insulation materials. A rich experience in production and application of BCF materials in various industries (construction, power, and manufacture of composite materials for special applications) was the result of this work.

In the end 1980-ies and the beginning 1990-ies the specialists from the Ukrainian factory built feeding installations in Georgia and Kazakhstan. With collapse of the USSR in 1991, the centralized financing of BCF activities came to the end. According to some rough estimation by experts, the USSR spent tens of millions of USD to develop basalt technology. This was quite a significant sum by the Soviet standards.

The author of this article started his BCF work, when he became a head of scientific research institute in Ukraine – the one, where the research of basalt was initially launched. By the time the institute possessed a collection of scientific materials on basalt fibers, as well as a lot of experience in development of BCF equipment. Renat Polevoy – an expert, who used to work in the “Laboratory of basalt fibers” – joined the team. In 1997 the institute started to design the new generation of BCF technology and equipment installations based on the modular approach. 

Why it was necessity to develop the new technologies? The most important consideration was the increased cost of energy, including gas and electric power. During the USSR hey-days nobody would thought about the cost of energy, high cost of manufacturing of equipment, heavy weight of furnaces, feeders and the dearest part of the equipment – bushing plates. The weight of bushing plates was reduced from 3400 to 3200 grams.

Therefore, the new technology aimed in decreasing energy consumption during BCF production, lowering the cost of equipment, making bushings lighter.

Initially pilot equipment was developed, and it was put into test to check its bushing assemblies, including those made on the basis of heat resisting steel. The traditional platinum alloy bushing assemblies, used for production of basalt super thin fiber, were replaced by bushings made from heat resisting alloys.

In August 1999, when installation works were approaching the end, a delegation from the Japanese company, which was involved in manufacturing materials for motor industry, visited Kiev. They were searching for the more heat-resistant fiber for materials used in mufflers for "T?YOTA" cars.  The engines of the new models had a higher temperature of exhaustion, under which fiber glass, traditionally used for those purposes, was destroyed. Therefore, it was necessary to apply new materials - basalt fibers.

An agreement about works finishing was signed. At 1st of November, 1999, BCF was produced on the first modular BCF -1 installation. In 2000 the joint Ukraine-Japanese enterprise of BCF production was established. BCF-2 modular industrial installations were developed. In autumn of 2000 the first industrial modular was launched in the joint enterprise (characteristics of modular BCF-1 installation are presented in table ? 3). By 2001-2002 the enterprise reached its designed capacity of 800 tons per annum. Starting from 2003-2004, after modernization of its equipment, the enterprise produces 1200 tons BCF every year. At the moment this is the largest BCF production. 100% of basalt roving produced by the enterprise is exported to Japan.

After the Japanese, the Korean and Chinese had interest on basalt technology and equipment. Considering the importance BCF technology, the author made a decision to work on BCF technology from the scientific and practical perspectives. In the end of 2002 end I accepted the invitation to head work on BCF in China. The Chinese were in favor of making a simple copy of the first modular BCF-1 installation. From my point of view, it did not make sense to make a simple copy. Under conditions of expensive energy in China, where cost of natural gas & electric power sometimes is higher than in Ukraine or even than in some European countries, the cost of BCF production would be too high. Therefore, a new design of modular CBF-1 installation with low energy consumption was developed. In May, 2004 this CBF-1 installation was launched successfully in Chengdu. Chengdu Aerospace Tuoxim Science Technology Co., Ltd uses this installation to produce basalt continuous roving and BCF fabrics.

Works on BCF were continued in Shanghai under the "Basalt continuous fiber and composite materials" program of Ministry of science and technology of PRC. In December, 2005 the ??F 1G-series installation was launched, it is used by Hengdian Group Shanghai Russia & Gold Basalt Fiber Company manufacturing BCF. It is worth noting, that this Chinese enterprises produces high-quality BCF with diameter of elementary fibers around 7 microns.

My experience in China gave me a new stimulus in development of basalt technologies. New types of basalts were tested for BCF production; new types of energy-saving equipment were developed and launched.

During this time the author developed the method of calculation for basalt melting furnaces, he continued developing bushing assemblies and completed the earlier started researches of fusion processes of various basalts types, thermo-chemical reactions during active basalts melting & homogenization of basalt melts, workability & characteristics of melts during continuous fibers production. All these scientific researches were implemented in practice in development of basalt melting & homogenization technologies and in the new series of technological equipment.

In 2006 Basalt Fiber & Composite Materials Technology Development Company, Ltd invented a new series of basalt equipment, including ??F 1GM and ??F 2GM. On their base TE ??F 1000 and TE ??F 1500 technological lines were developed. The technology & design of this equipment is based on the experience of exploitation of basalt equipment in Ukraine, Russia and China, as well as on the mathematical calculations and results of the new researches. Characteristics of TE BCF 1000 and TE BCF 1500 technological installations are presented in table 2. 


                                                                                                              Table 2.


Technical Data


Production line TE BCF 1000

Production line TE BCF 1500


Production capacity





Number of module unites







of gas                                                 

?3/ hour




Consumption of electric power

(220 / 380.50 Hz), not less





Consumption of technical water

(in grader)





CBF production line overall dimension

- width- length- height

with a recuperator


6.5 x 26 x7.5

6.5 x 40 x 7.5

BCF production cost on these technological lines decreased significantly and became comparable or even lower (even for small production volumes of 1000-1500 tons per annum) than that of e-fiber glass.   Thus, the successful work on BCF production technology allowed matching the main goals, such as providing good quality of continuous fibers, stability of production process, and the required cost of production. Comparative characteristics of technologies and processing equipment for BCF production are shown in table 3.

                                                                                                                  Table 3.

Year of equipment launching

 Type technology and equipment

Diameter of filament fibers, d (micron)

Unit discharge for 1 kg. CBF

Natural gas, (m3 )

Electric power, (kw/h)

Weight of initial fiber on bobbin, (g)

Weight of bushing,

assembly & qquantity of bushing holes, not less than


Feeder installation

(d = 9 - 13 µ)

3.1 – 3.2


700 - 900


(200 holes)

1999 -2001

Modular installation HB – 1 

(d = 15 - 17 µ)

1.0 – 1.1


1000 - 1300


(200 holes)


Modular installation CBF-1G

(d = 10 - 12 µ)



2500 - 3500


(200 holes)


Modular installation


(d = 9 - 13 µ)



2500 - 3500


(266 holes)

2005 -2006

Modular installation


(d = 9 - 13 µ)



3000 - 3500


(266 holes)

Analysis of data presented in table 3 shows that the new generation of equipment allows to lower the cost of BCF production significantly.

To be able to realize the perspectives of development of BCF production, one should clearly understand that BCF technologies are still on the initial stage of their development and that their real perspectives are enormous. There are good perspectives in increasing output of equipment and decreasing production cost.

Development of fiber glass production technology also went through different stages, including application of bushing assemblies with 200, 400, 800, 1200 and 2000 holes.

In the end, the production cost and production volumes determine expansion of BCF production and fields of its application. At the moment there are only several enterprises producing BCF. The “?hina ???posites” expo in 2004, 2005 and 2006 shown that demand for BCF and BCF materials grows by great means from year to year and it exceeds the existing offer by far. Organization of BCF and BCF materials industrial production is going to help the moment.

Naturally, under such circumstances, investment is going to flow into BCF and BCF materials production. There is some valuable data available for the potential investors.

Organization of industrial production of BCF with annual output of 1000- 1500 tons requires investment of about 4-5 million USD, including the cost of very expensive bushings, which are made of platinum alloys. Production can be started after 3-4 months and can reach its designed capacity in 10-12 months.

The production cost of one tone of BCF is less than 1000 USD.

According to the prices in September, 2006, the production output can be as follows:

• Primary materials: basalt roving and chopped basalt fibers – 5-8 million USD;

• BCF materials, such as grids, fabrics, mats – 12-22 million USD.

These figures make it obvious that investment in BCF is lucrative enough.

Development of the BCF technology and equipment made it possible to organize industrial production on large-scale.


During quite a short period of time basalt technology went through the following developments: invention of production technology, design of testing and industrial equipment, research of BCF, development of BCF materials, application of BCF and materials in various industries, organization of BCF industrial production. It is important that BCF production cost was considerably lowered. In the near future we will see increase in BCF production output and development of new fields of its application. The existing BCF technologies make it possible to organize industrial production of BCF and materials on its basis. Obviously, development of BCF technologies and industrial equipment will continue.


A question:  Why there is no large-scale production of BCF worldwide?

The answer:

BCF industrial production has a short history of only 20 years. Development of BCF technologies was conducted in the USSR; it had a status of closed scientific program. The initial BCF industrial equipment was very expensive, and energy-hungry. Thus, it was possible to organize a profitable BCF production only in the Soviet Union or in the countries with cheap energy.

For development of a sound BCF industrial production a new design with lower energy consumption was required. This kind of equipment was developed recently. This equipment is installed and used by four companies; it makes it possible to increase production output on a year-to-year basis.

A question: Why the other countries do not make research on BCF?

The answer:

BCF technology development in the USSR was a closed program. Therefore, there were no contacts with scientists and engineers from abroad. According to "The expert” magazine, works on BCF were undertaken by “Oweng Corning” Company from the USA and by “DBW” Company from Germany.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

At the moment, South Korea, Austria and USA work on BCF technology.  The EU and some other countries have basalt fiber research programs.

A question: Is BCF in competitor’s relationship with fiber glass or fibers of any other types?

The answer:

BCF is not a competitor of fiber glass by any means. Characteristics of BCF place it in between glass and carbon fibers. BCF has its own fields of application, which are determined by its special qualities, such as chemical and thermal stability. It is also possible to use composite materials from carbon fibers and basalt fibers. By some estimates, the world-wide annual production output of glass fiber is 3.5-4 million tons. The BCF annual production output is 3000-5000 tons. Obviously, there is no competitor’s relationship between those two materials.