March 12, 2007 — Kobe Steel will add a fourth mechanical forging press at its U.S. subsidiary, Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products L.L.C., to increase its capacity for aluminum automotive parts in response to growing U.S. demand for lightweight automotive suspension systems. The project involves a $14-million investment at the Bowling Green, KY, plant, which will be ready for production next April.
No contractor was named for the equipment. When the fourth forging press goes into operation, KAAP's production capacity will rise 33% to 280,000 pieces per month.
KAAP is 60% owned by Kobe Steel, 25% by Mitsui & Co. Ltd., and 15% by Toyota Tsusho Corporation. The operation started up in June 2005, and demand for aluminum forgings led KAAP to install a second forging press in April 2006 and a third press in December. Total capital investments up to now are estimated at $66 million. The facilities include a melting and holding furnace, a continuous casting machine for aluminum billets, three 6,300-ton mechanical forging presses, three mechanical trimming presses, two continuous heat-treating furnaces, and an automatic penetrant inpsection line.
The plant's current capacity is listed as 190,000 pieces/month, and Kobe Steel states that KAAP's order book indicates the No. 3 forging press will reach full capacity in the first half of 2008.
With the fourth press installed and operating at full capacity, KAAP will have a production capability of 280,000 pieces/month.
The company anticipates that demand will continue to increase as automakers increase their selection of aluminum for automotive structures. This trend is particularly noticeable among North America's Japanese automotive transplants, Kobe explained.