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Investment in new plant and machinery gives Schaeffler UK the edge

Investment in new plant and machinery gives Schaeffler UK the edge The Schaeffler Group has invested several million euros in new plant and machinery at its automotive engine component manufacturing plant in South Wales. The new investment was supported by the Welsh Government.

The new machinery - which includes surface coating machines and an enormous, 66-tonne deep drawing press - will enable Schaeffler UK to produce highly repeatable, superior quality mechanical tappets and other automotive engine components.

The new coatings plant, which currently comprises of one coating machine with the possibility of more to follow, was installed in June 2011. The deep drawing press is due to arrive at the factory in August 2011 and is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year.

Established in 1955, the Llanelli plant manufactures high precision engine components for the automotive market. The plant currently employs 230 people and is an autonomous subsidiary of the multi-national German-owned Schaeffler Group.

The new coating machines will enable Schaeffler UK to coat the surface of engine components with an ultra-thin Tiondur + DLC, extremely hard, multi-layer coating. This black coloured coating is applied via special, vacuum-controlled chambers. The function of the extremely wear resistant coating is to minimise friction between mating components in the engine, resulting in lower fuel consumption and reduced CO2 emissions.

The applied coating material is either in the form of a solid (PVD - Physical Vapour Deposition) or in the form of a gas (PACVD - Plasma Assisted Chemical Vapour Deposition). In contrast to conventional coating methods, this new technique will enable Schaeffler to produce unique compositions of materials and coatings using an environmentally friendly (no CO2 is produced) vacuum process.

The new coating machines require components to be thoroughly cleaned before entering the vacuum chambers. The investment therefore includes new special purpose washing machines for each coating machine.

Roger Evans MBE, Plant Director at Schaeffler UK commented: "This significant investment in new plant and machinery represents a tremendous shift in the way this factory will produce automotive components in the future. Without doubt, this investment is the single most important investment in this factory's history. By embracing these advanced coating and deep drawing technologies, we will be able to produce new superior quality components that meet the specific needs of our automotive customer base, which will help safeguard the long term future of this factory."

Business Minister Edwina Hart said it was good to hear that the significant investment by Schaeffler would support its long-term future and give the company a competitive advantage. "In these challenging trading conditions, it is vital that businesses remain ahead of the game - this investment will enable Schaeffler to remain highly competitive within a global market and I am pleased it has been supported by the Welsh Government."

Also part of the new investment is a deep drawing press, which will also provide Schaeffler UK with significant technical advantages. The press will cover 35 square metres of floor space and will enable the factory to press tappet blanks to 'near net shape' i.e. as close to the finished product as possible. By deep drawing the tappets, Schaeffler UK will be able to manufacture a more cost effective alternative to the traditional forged and turned design.
 

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