DETROIT — Siemens Automotive has invested $50 million in three years to expand its plastic air-intake manifold business in North America and jump-start development of modular air-fuel engine systems.
But the Tier 1 auto supplier already is forging new plans to boost that investment by adding welded manifolds to its plastic product lineup.
Siemens' automotive systems group, based in Auburn Hills, Mich., is in the process of adding three more manufacturing cells at its Windsor, Ontario, plant to make lost-core manifolds.
The Tier 1 auto supplier also recently installed 28 injection presses and six vibration welding machines at its Tilbury, Ontario, facility to produce engine air-induction systems.
Moreover, the firm plans to gear up to make welded manifolds, either by adding a new Ontario plant or expanding an existing facility, said Siemens spokesman David Ladd. While no Big Three automaker currently uses welded manifolds, made by bonding two plastic shells, Siemens expects the manifolds to command 20-30 percent of the market within five years, said David Geran, business development manager of the Windsor plant.
The investments are following the company's vision to develop integrated, thermoplastic air-induction and engine systems. The cost-effective, one-piece parts feature nylon 6/6 manifolds injection molded to air-induction parts, such as resonators and air cleaners, and other engine components such as fuel rails.
``Because we're an engine management systems supplier, we approach the market differently than a molder would,'' Geran said. ``The reason we're even in this business is to effectively integrate the engine products that we already make.''
Last year, Siemens began molding plastic fasteners to lost-core manifolds for Chrysler Corp.'s LH series midsize cars, including the Dodge Intrepid and Chrysler Concorde. This year, the company began molding plastic resonators to manifolds on a light truck made by an undisclosed carmaker.
And next year, Siemens plans to mold integrated nylon fuel rails to its manifolds for Jaguar Cars Ltd.
Siemens might have competition from European suppliers, which already have embraced modular air-induction systems. One company, Mann+Hummel GmbH of Ludwigsburg, Germany, molds integrated systems that include throttle bodies and fuel rails for Audi AG, spokeswoman Julie Morey said from Mann+Hummel's Southfield, Mich., office.
The three new lost-core cells at Siemen's 130,000-square-foot Windsor plant will give the firm seven cells total by early next year. The plant, which doubled its space in 1994, now makes about 1 million lost-core manifolds a year and plans to reach the 2 million mark by the year 2000, Geran said.
Each new lost-core cell includes dual Cincinnati Milacron presses, each with 1,000 tons of clamping force, core casting machines and a hot-melt bath area to dissolve the tin-bismuth manifold core. The installation will bring the number of presses at the plant to 10.
In Tilbury, Siemens produces air-induction systems, such as air cleaners and resonators, and operates a welding area. The plant currently has 28 presses, with clamping forces of 165-850 tons, which gradually have been installed since 1994.
Siemens Automotive is a subsidiary of Siemens AG of Munich, Germany. The automotive group had North American sales of $575 million and worldwide sales of $2.7 billion in 1996.