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KSM Castings USA started up in 2014 and expanded in 2015 producing automotive diecastings for automotive transmissions in a highly automated operation

Diecaster KSM Adding Counter-Pressure Casting

March 15, 2016
$80-million expansion in North Carolina will include a separate operation, preparing to produce chassis parts Aluminum automotive diecasting Rapid growth Emphasizing automation, customer service

KSM Castings USA in Shelby, NC, announced an $80-million expansion plan, its second expansion in the two years since opening. The plant currently produces aluminum high-pressure diecastings for automotive transmissions, but future production programs are driving the adoption of new casting technology in the upcoming project.

Starting this year, a new, 50,000 sq. ft. building will be added to the site to house counter-pressure casting (CPC) machines. The initial $27-million investment will cover the construction costs and the first production equipment. The capital investment is forecast to total $80 million by 2022 as the CPC program grows, in new construction and the first production machines for CPC processes. Overall, KSM will invest $80 million and hire 80 new employees between now and 2022 to support CPC processes.

In contrast to standard high-pressure diecasting, CPC allows the manufacturer to adjust the pressures of the furnace and the mold independently. The high cooling rate of the material is another difference. KSM claimed these factors recommend CPC for casting parts with a high static and dynamic load factors, such as chassis components. According to its announcement, KSM will begin manufacturing and supplying chassis parts to an unnamed German automaker in 2018.

“With the expansion of this site we will continue with our strategy to be on-site, offer different production processes for our customers, and supply the local markets,” according to Franz Friedrich Butz, CEO of the KSM Castings Group.

Currently, the employment total is 128. When the new project is completed, KSM’s total investment at the Shelby site is projected to be $135 million, with 269 employees at that location.

KSM Castings NC Inc. was founded in 2012, with plant construction beginning in 2013. The project was completed in May 2014, centering on two 750-metric ton machines and one 900-mt machine. The highly automated operation also includes melting, controlled cooling, deburring, parts cleaning, and finish machining operations.

In the summer of 2015, three more diecasting machines with clamping forces of 3,000 mt and 1,350 mt were installed to produce transmission housings and internal transmission parts.

In addition to a high degree of robotic automation, KSM emphasizes its proximity to customers as part of its customer service and expansion strategy. Since the most recent expansion last year, the plant has supplied 18,500 transmission parts per week since t to ZF Transmissions, KSM noted.

The expansion is being aided by a performance-based grant of up to $320,000 from the One North Carolina Fund — a program that credits manufacturers once agreed capital investment and employment targets have been reached. “KSM’s rapid growth in Cleveland County underscores the continued success of automotive components manufacturing across North Carolina,” stated North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. “The expansion by this major automotive supplier keeps that momentum going.”

In addition to the North Carolina operation, the KSM Castings Group, Wuppertal, Germany, has six diecasting, low-pressure sand casting, and permanent mold foundries in Germany, Czech Republic, and China, producing a range of automotive structural, chassis, and powertrain components in aluminum and magnesium alloys. Volkswagen, Bentler, ZF, Daimler, and Bosch have been reported among its automotive customers.

The onetime ThyssenKrupp business unit is now a wholly owned subsidiary of acquired by China's CITIC Dicastal Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (a manufacturer of automotive wheels.)

In addition to the addition of counter-pressure casting, KSM is working together with local educational institutions to develop a training center for robotics technology. Also, KSM has opened an engineering office in the Detroit area together with CITIC Dicastal. “The proximity to General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford was decisive for the site selection. At this location we will develop, construct and optimize products directly on site and together with our customers,” the CEO stated.

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)