Site: BMW Foundry Division BMW AG Ohmstrasse 2 84030 Landshut, Germany Date Visited: April 4, 1996 WTEC Attendees: P.H. Mikkola (report author), D. Apelian, M.C. Flemings Hosts: Reinhard Woltmann, General Manager Dr.-Ing Achim Keidies Uwe Michallik S. Jagodzinski Others: C. McCurdy, B. Smith, General Motors
The BMW aluminum casting operation is located in Landshut, Germany, about 50 miles northwest of Munich. This relatively new casting complex was started in 1986; operations began in 1991 when the casting operation moved from Munich. It is the largest low pressure, semi-permanent mold aluminum foundry in the world. This is a captive shop, currently manufacturing only parts for BMW, but Landshut managers are interested in expanding their casting sales.
This modern aluminum manufacturing plant employs high pressure die cast, gravity, and low pressure permanent molding, sand casting, and a lost foam development cell. The site is a multi-level foundry with varied operations on each level. All equipment is monitored by a computer information system that reports both inventory control and manufacturing process data.
The process begins by either melting aluminum or purchasing liquid aluminum from the secondary industry. Molten aluminum is transported by trucks in high temperature ladles from as far away as 200 miles. The aluminum is held in gas-heated furnaces until needed at the casting machines, at which time fork trucks transfer it via ladles.
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 done using the low pressure semi-permanent 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 recycle units. Green sand castings are used for low volume (V-12) blocks and heads and intake manifolds. This area is also used to make prototype and pre-production parts. (Sixty-five percent of production is from the low pressure semi-permanent mold technique. These machines have a high degree of automation and are operated in the cell concept. The quality of the products looks excellent.)
A recent effort has been an advanced development of lost foam for cylinder head applications. BMW has installed a state-of-the-art lost foam development facility. It also has hired talent in the area of mechanical engineering and material science to advance this technology. BMW will be a major player in this technology in future years. It is currently installing a high volume production line purchased from the United States for production of an L-6 cylinder head. The value added to this cylinder head using lost foam was to reduce its mass by 3 kg and to cast a number of features into the cylinder head, impossible by other techniques. BMW has discovered that this casting technology, relatively innovative as compared to other techniques, requires both technical and operator skills higher than the more mature sand and metal mold casting processes. The company is using its prototype operation to train the labor force and make advanced products for testing.
BMW is a leading aluminum caster in the world. Its experience and success in low pressure casting techniques have been a model to the industry. The casting plant is spacious, with technology applied to reduce the labor content of product. The tools to assure good metallurgical and dimensional quality of the castings are also there. Some value added machining is done where it creates value. No complete machining of castings is done at the foundry nor is there any secondary melting other than of sprue and gates.
The metal yield of the low pressure operation is outstanding (in the 93% range), but the 6 min. cycle time is somewhat long. As with all castings plants WTEC visited, the internal air quality could be improved. In keeping with the tradition of German craftsmanship, many signs of complex high quality products manufactured with sophisticated equipment were evident. Pride in the operation and the final products was evident throughout the workforce. Everyone was willing to show and explain how his machine or operation worked.
As with other European operations, WTEC's BMW hosts expressed the view that the metal casting industry was not attracting the best and brightest students. They believe that the fields of business and law attract the best, with engineering well down the list. Only steel mills and mining rate below foundries as good places to work. Colleges teaching foundry engineering have a difficult job attracting enough students to keep their classes full. There is also a major unemployment problem in the entire manufacturing sector. Eastern European countries are getting much of the high labor content manufacturing such as foundries as a result of their lower labor costs.
BMW casting operations do not use university research to a great degree. A couple of examples were cited but in general development work is done internal to the organization. BMW does, however, play an important role in the culture of Landshut as it attempts to harmonize society and industry in the area.
BMW does use advanced technologies such as rapid prototyping, computer simulation, and CMM technology to increase the speed to market and to measure and reduce process variation.
BMW AG Landshut Factory. Brochure.