As discussed in Chapter 2, the BMW aluminum casting operation is located in Landshut, Germany, about 50 miles northwest of Munich. The plant uses high pressure die casting, gravity and low pressure permanent mold casting, sand casting, and a lost foam development cell. The site is a foundry with varied operations on each level. Casting production of transmission cases, motorcycle cylinder blocks, and oil pans is done on high pressure die cast machines. More complex cylinder heads and engine blocks are made using the low pressure semipermanent mold process. Cores for this process are transported by a driverless transport system. Cores are made in both shell and cold box processes, and all sand is recycled via thermal recycled units. Sixty-five percent of production at Landshut is via the low pressure, semipermanent mold technique.
BMW is a leading aluminum caster in the world. Its experience and success in low pressure casting techniques have been a model for the industry. The casting plant is spacious, with technology applied to reduce the labor content of product. No complete machining of castings is done at the foundry, nor is there any secondary melting other than that of sprues and gates.
The metal yield of the low pressure operation is outstanding, in the range of 93%, but the 6 min cycle time is somewhat long. BMW does use advanced technologies such as rapid prototyping, computer simulation, and intelligent processing technologies to increase the speed to market and to measure and reduce process variation.
The Aluminum Division of the Teksid Group (part of the Fiat Group) is the company's highest growth area, with a recent increase in worldwide production capacity. The Carmagnola foundry produces 30,000 tons/year of semipermanent mold castings, 25,000 tons of high pressure die castings, and 700 tons of lost foam. The lost foam operation is expanding, and to make room for this expansion, a portion of the high pressure die casting is being transferred to Teksid's casting plant in Poland.
Teksid is committed to make the operation at Carmagnola the showplace of high aluminum production technology.
One of the major new areas of process and product development at Teksid is in magnesium castings. Cross members for automotive applications are a major interest. Weight reduction in this particular example is 55% compared to steel fabrication. As with many major casters in the world, Teksid continues to look at cost as the major challenge. Teksid has announced that it will build a new foundry in Mexico to supply the U.S. auto industry. It has also signed agreements to begin manufacturing in China and India.