Mexico-based auto exhaust and emissions control company Katcon Global SA has formed a new advanced materials business, assisted by German-based engineering specialist M.Tec.
The new business unit is part of a push into carbon fiber molding and other advanced technologies for Katcon, which in February opened an $8.8 million, 100,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Santa Catarina, near Monterrey, Mexico.
The company plans to install a high pressure resin transfer molding system in that facility by November, Carlos Garza, Katcon's operations manager, said in an April 28 telephone interview.
The machine, with 1,700 tons clamping force, is believed to be the first such system installed in the Americas.
That HP-RTM machine is supplied by Austrian manufacturer Engel GmbH, with technology from German company Hennecke GmbH. Engel had announced the sale at last year's Plastimagen 2014 trade show, but it said only that it was to an unnamed Mexican company.
Katcon and M.Tec connected through Germany's Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production and were assisted with the support of AMAC, a German-based industrial and business consulting company in the field of lightweight construction materials.
AMAC announced the partnership in an April 28 news release.
“We started advising and introducing Katcon, the worldwide renowned manufacturer for automotive exhaust systems, to the composite industry only in 2014,” said Michael Effing, founder of AMAC and a senior advisor to the Aachen Center (AZL). “To see this project alive and operational already now shows efficient project management.”
M.Tec will support Katcon in its entry to the advanced materials industry, with Katcon saying it is relying on M.Tec's expertise while developing its in-house engineering capabilities.
Garza said Katcon has already installed a 220-ton Engel press at the new facility in Santa Catarina, and wants to boost its business supplying carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, which can be 50 percent lighter than steel or aluminum components.
“We're trying to follow the lightweight trend of Europe,” Garza said. “It's similar to what BMW is doing in Europe. We think American OEMs will follow the European trend.”
Katcon said it will produce lightweight composite components, such as exterior and interior body panels, including hood assemblies and engine covers, and underbody components such as fuel tank shields.
In a February announcement, it also said its new advanced materials business would target the aerospace industry. Katcon said the new facility, its second in Mexico, would also include manufacturing for its emissions control business.
In a separate interview, Fernando Turner, Katcon's executive vice president, said that “as far as we know, from the point of view of Engel, this is the first HP-RTM system in the Americas.”
He added that Katcon is “open to most ideas right now” and talking to potential clients about making structural parts for the automotive industry and interior parts for aircraft.
“We are equipped to make technical presentations for quotes and we have started visiting clients. We want to close our first deal in 2015 and to be ready to manufacture [in Santa Catarina] in 2016.”
He pointed out that, should a major order be received, the company could handle the work at a plant it operates in Poland.
Apart from HP-RTM and standard injection molding, Katcon also offers thermoforming services, using technology supplied by Zogno, Italy-based CMS SpA.