GKN Wheels, a global expert in the design, manufacture and testing of large off-highway wheels, has invested more than £3 million into its production facility in Liuzhou, Southern China to create a mining wheel center of excellence. The introduction of multi-piece manufacturing and the development of a new state-of-the-art cold forming line enables a wider product range to be manufactured to meet the needs of the international mining industry.
GKN Wheels Liuzhou is a world class market-leading facility for the production of off-highway wheels which serves the global off-highway market for mining and construction equipment, including harbour cranes and fork lift trucks, ranging up to 63 in.
Recently, the Liuzhou facility has been completely reorganized to optimize production capacity and improve process capability through the launch of value stream management, building management and engineering infrastructure.
The investment includes a new Chinese-made press line consisting of 1,600 and 3,500 tonne 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 ‘right first time’ performance and increases weld capacity both in-terms of size and thickness.
The cold form process upgrade offers many features and benefits over hot forming including improved material surface condition, less pressing marks, improved product dimensional consistency 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.
Many machined components can now be redesigned by GKN 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, says, “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 harbour 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 takes production capacity in excess of 100,000 multi-piece wheels per year and will enable the plant to make wheels up to 63 in. in diameter, which are widely used by the mining industry.”
GKN Wheels Liuzhou is part of the GKN Land Systems Division of GKN and has additional manufacturing bases in Denmark, Italy, the UK and the USA. Major, world class, test centers are sited in Woodridge, IL, 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.