GKN Wheels has invested more than £3 million into its production facility in Liuzhou, southern China, to create a mining wheel ‘center of excellence.’ According to the company, introduction of multi-piece manufacturing and development of a new state-of-the-art cold forming line at the facility enables a wider product range to be manufactured to meet the needs of the international mining industry.

GKN Wheels said its Liuzhou facility has been completely re-organized to optimize production capacity and improve process capability. The investment includes a new Chinese-made press line consisting of 1,600- and 3,500-metric-ton hydraulic presses, which has allowed a phased move from hot forming to a new high-speed cold forming manufacturing process to offer improved efficiency, product performance and quality advantages. These include improved material surface condition, dimensional accuracy of products and environmentally better use of utilities and reduced air pollution. The presses benefit from an automated loading/unloading system using ABB robots, sourced from Spain. A new flash butt welder offers significantly improved performance and increases weld capacity both in-terms of size and thickness.

The cold forming process upgrade, according to GKN Wheels, offers features and benefits over hot forming including fewer pressing marks and opportunities for material thickness reduction. Cold formed material has been tested via accelerated tests and results have shown that expected life is significantly improved.

GKN said many machined components can now be re-designed as cold-formed components resulting in significant cost savings, not only to materials, but also production costs. For improved product finishing the new line includes a 1,000-m2 state-of-the-art paint plant, which is capable of powder painting even the largest mining wheels.

Allan Wang, commercial director of GKN Wheels Liuzhou, said, “The mining industry globally is growing rapidly and we are dedicated to providing our customers with the quality and quantity of wheels required, as well as acting as a technical support service. As the industry grows, our customers in the construction, mining and harbor crane equipment markets will have varying requirements and this investment allows us to act as a local provider with a global support system.

“Further investments will be made as volume grows over the next two years to allow for the production of high volume multi-piece wheels to meet with growing demand. The latest capital expenditure follows GKN’s significant investment over the previous year with the powder painting facility, new lathes and welding equipment. The investments take production capacity in excess of 100,000 multi-piece wheels per year and will enable the plant to make wheels up to 63 inches in diameter, which are widely used by the mining industry,” said Wang.

GKN Wheels Liuzhou is part of the GKN Land Systems Division of GKN and has additional manufacturing bases in Denmark, Italy, the U.K. and the United States. Test centers are sited in Woodridge, Illinois, USA, and Carpenedolo, Italy, which are responsible for testing wheel designs for manufacturers of off-highway machinery used in the mining, construction, agricultural and material handling sectors.

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