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New Diecasting Facility Provides End To End Solution

The first new purpose-built die casting foundry in the UK for more than a decade is being constructed to satisfy international demand and a proposed 100 per cent increase in UK business in the next five years for a global automotive supplier.

The new AMTEK facility at Kidderminster in the West Midlands will help service the rest of the group’s European manufacturing sites to ensure the company can cast and fully machine products across the whole region.

With its international headquarters in Germany, AMTEK is a $2.5bn global business with 65 manufacturing sites throughout the world, 45 being in India. The group has three aluminium casting facilities, five iron casting foundries, 16 forging facilities and 30 machining facilities.

The company acquired Coventry-based King Automotive Systems Ltd in 2002 which is predominantly dedicated to machining and AMTEK Aluminium Casting (Witham) Ltd in 2007 which consists of an aluminium die casting foundry and separate machine shop and casts components in the range of 400 to 2700t. The two sites supply a wide range of components such as knuckles, aluminium bed plates, link shafts, conrods, hubs and transmission housings for OEMs and Tier-1 customers including Ford and Jaguar Land Rover; with around 45 per cent direct export of which 15 per cent is US-bound.

Whilst the Coventry based company concentrates on engine and driveline components, the Witham facility produces mostly engine and transmission components.

Demand Driven
With over 30 years’ experience in the automotive supply industry, Laurence Hurley, COO Europe, spoke confidently about the future to Foundry Trade Journal. “We are at full capacity within our existing UK die casting facility so expansion really is the way forward for us. The UK is a good place to do business and it is close to our customer base so the new facility at Kidderminster is really an extension of what we already have in Coventry and Witham.”

With an increasing number of OEMs and Tier 1 companies wanting to outsource more, AMTEK is well-placed to continue to help customers to do so, being a reliable company which continually invests in increased capacity and the latest casting and machining technology.

In response to customer demand, the new site will fundamentally see the company progress into the production of large complex castings such as engine blocks and large transmission housings, in support of the product ranges currently supplied. “We have been successful in winning new production programmes with JLR and Ford so we need additional capacity,” Hurley said. “The Kidderminster site will be focussed on large products with 1600t upwards die casting capability – items such as large oil pans, cam carriers, ladder frames. The current order book for the new site, which isn’t due to be in full production until next year, is 35 per cent full and we plan to fill it completely.”

Vertically Integrated
Hurley has witnessed the group grow both organically and by acquisition to provide an all-encompassing support base for its blue-chip customers. “We support our international business from various facilities across Europe and can supply fully finished, machined components thanks to the range of casting and machining capabilities within the group. The Kidderminster site will therefore act as a vertical integration to service the UK and international operations for aluminium casting of large complex components.”

Although the company has progressed through the acquisition of businesses whilst expanding existing sites, the opportunity to build a die casting foundry from scratch is being relished. UK deputy managing director Brett Parker explained: “We have an existing engineering skill set and will be recruiting new skills and training new people, which is exciting. It is also a real bonus to be planning the layout and best operating practices with an empty building.”

Kidderminster was chosen for the 125,0002 foot facility after months of searching for the right location. Hurley said: “We had the ability from ‘day one’ to specify what we wanted in terms of building – a brownfield facility, the appropriate roof height, on a large land complex, with good motorway network access and other infrastructure, a good labour pool and the support of the local council. When we found the site in Kidderminster it fitted the requirements. The services were already there plus the region already has a forging and casting heritage.”

Tried and Tested Equipment
Work is already well underway with the existing building having been stripped and the first machine foundation nearing completion. The company’s existing suppliers have been working with them to ensure anticipated capabilities can be met. John Paterson of Striko UK (email: jpa@striko-uk.com web: www.strikowestofen.com) takes up the story: “When AMTEK bought the Witham site in 2007 they set about moving away from ladle systems and have been investing in dosing technology to reduce energy consumption and improve productivity and process control. 

“As well as replacing the existing holding furnaces/ladle systems several new die casting cells were also installed at the Witham site to increase the capacity. The Westomat units range in size from 900 to 2300kg.”

Following the success at Witham, AMTEK again turned to the international melting supplier for the new Kidderminster site. The first phase to be supplied and installed in 2014 consists of three Westomats up to 2300kg and the very latest energy efficient melting plant of 6000kg holding with 4000kg melting rate. The melting plant is from the well-proven design of M/H 11 tilting furnaces, with the very latest energy saving shaft design.

A second phase is expected to go ahead later this year for installation in 2015 with at least three additional Westomats and a second melting plant installation. There will also be a state-of-the-art fume filtration plant which will have a facility to handle the extraction from three melting plants of 4000kg melting rate per hour.

“What will be particularly rewarding about the new Kidderminster foundry is that the reliability will be huge because it will be full of new equipment which won’t have maintenance issues for some time,” Paterson told Foundry Trade Journal.

As it grows to meet demand the new facility will house large die casting machines supplied by Italpresse through its UK agent Fenco-Aldridge (email: fab@fenco.co.uk web: www.fenco.co.uk). The first units are currently going in to the plant, including two toggle free machines over 1650 tonne.

“This is a bold step by a very accomplished die caster which we have worked with for many years,” said Alberto Albertini of Italpresse. “It is encouraging to see such investment in the UK and especially with a clear concentration on installing larger machines. AMTEK’s commitment to the concept of toggle free die casting within the plant also shows an understanding of the possibilities that new technology brings to the die casting process.”

The innovative toggle free die casting machine concept was launched by Italpresse in 2007. As well as the machines Fenco-Aldridge has sold in the UK, there are now well over 100 toggle free machines in action across the world.

The toggle free machine provides dimensional and reduced mechanical stress benefits and Italpresse has been able to produce a TF machine capable of withstanding the more arduous conditions of the die casting process. The TF designed machines have bigger but shorter tie bars which makes them stronger and more rigid, with bigger platens and improvements in the die opening stroke.

The innovative way of clamping the machine - with hydraulic nuts on each bar, each of which is controlled and monitored individually - has the effect of minimising flashing, as the machine can self-compensate for position.

The TF machines at the Kidderminster AMTEK site will be the first in the UK above 1650 tonne size range.

Improved Business Model
The new facility will be casting by late 2014 and in full production during 2015 and will act as a satellite of the Witham site. Although a significant investment, it has been made thanks to booked business which is why Hurley and his team are so enthusiastic. “The Kidderminster site will have a capacity of 25,000t a year and will allow us to produce technically complex castings and sees us move into the world of engine blocks and transmissions,” Hurley said. “It is a significant investment but it improves our business model and means we can fully finish a product for casting and machining across Europe so of course we are confident.”

Contact: Brett Parker, UK deputy managing director, AMTEK Aluminium Casting (Witham) Ltd
Tel: +44 (0) 1376 500 700
Email: brett.parker@amtek.com
Web: www.amtek.com