May 21, 2007 — General Motors Corp. plans to invest $61 million for a new sand-casting operation at its GM Powertrain plant in Defiance, OH. It's the second major capital investment in GM's casting operations in a week, following the news of a $63-million molding line for the Saginaw, MI, plant (see previous item). It will be the first installation of the precision sand-casting process at Defiance, which will be used to produce aluminum engine blocks for GM's 3.6-liter high-feature V-6 (HFV6) engines.
At the same time, GM announced earlier today, a $332-million investment at its Toledo, OH, transmission plant, where it plans to produce a new line of fuel-efficient, front-wheel-drive, six-speed transmissions. The same plant is already in the midst of a $540 million expansion for rear-wheel drive, six-speed transmissions.
The investment in casting technology also stands in contrast to Ford Motor Co.'s stated intention to minimize in-house casting operations. According to GM Powertrain manufacturing manager for castings and components Arvin Jones, “We are transforming GM’s casting business and moving in a new technological direction to be competitive in the changing marketplace. The Defiance plant is part of that transformation. This investment is possible because of the involvement of employees in improving the quality of our products and the efficiency of the operations here. Their efforts are contributing to GM’s turnaround in North America.”
Precision sand casting involves pouring molten metal into solid exterior molds formed in a cured, resin-bonded sand. This process allows use of cast-in-place iron liners, and pressurized aluminum pouring. GM states the process achieves "a high degree of dimensional accuracy," and the "higher material strength properties needed to support the newer, more efficient engines in GM’s product portfolio."
The HFV6 is installed in various GM vehicles, including the Cadillac CTS, SRX and STS sedans, and the GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook and Buick Enclave crossover SUVs.
The Defiance project involves plant renovations as well as the new tooling and machinery for the precision sand casting process. Work will begin in June, and production of the new engine blocks will begin late in 2009.