Kobe Steel Ltd.’s aluminum forging operation in China is complete, now that a second development phase is finished. Tokyo-based Kobe Steel, the holding company, said all the operating equipment for the three-year-long development is in full production.
Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products (China) Co. Ltd. was announced in May 2010 as a joint venture of Kobe Steel and two trading companies, Mitsui & Co. Ltd. and Toyota Tsusho Corp. Its products are aluminum automotive suspension parts. The initial investment was estimated at $32 million.
In its ownership structure and capital equipment KAAP China matches Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products in Bowling Green, KY.
KAAP China aims to supply China’s expanding automotive manufacturing market, already the largest in the world and forecast to continue growing. Kobe Steel noted that China produced 19 million cars in 2012, and predicted it would increase that total to 22 million cars by 2022. Within that total is a rising demand for lighter vehicles to meet stricter fuel-economy standards. “As a result, demand for aluminum suspensions in China is rapidly increasing, mainly from Japanese, American and European carmakers,” Kobe Steel reported.
After construction of the initial aluminum forging line was underway at the site in Suzhou, Kobe Steel announced plans to duplicate the original installation with a second-phase development.
KAAP China’s first line — a 6,300-metric-ton mechanical forging press and heat treatment operation — started up in August 2012, with a capacity of 1.5 million forgings per year.
Now, KAAP China has added a second forging press line and doubled capacity 3 million aluminum forgings per year.
The second phase also included a melting furnace and billet casting line, so KAAP China now operates as an integrated plant. The additional investment was estimated at $57 million.
The completion of KAAP China means that Kobe Steel has integrated manufacturing for aluminum automotive suspensions in China, Japan (at Daian, in Inabe Mie Prefecture), and soon in the U.S., following the news (see p. 6) that KAAP in Kentucky will be adding aluminum bar production later this year.