Forging new ground

The car industry is changing and Magna, one of the world’s largest car part manufacturers, has, with the help of Bühler, turned concept into reality with the opening of a state-of-the-art die-casting facility in the UK.

Our century-old relationship with cars is changing. Not only is the internal combustion engine being replaced by electric motors, but we are on the cusp of ever-increasing vehicle automation and connectivity while some of us living in urban settings are replacing car ownership with the concept of car sharing. It’s not just our relationship with cars that is in flux, it’s also the way they are being made. Car architecture is evolving. Global demand for electric vehicles reached 10.7 million in 2022, representing one out of seven cars sold last year – compared to one out of 70 cars sold in 2017.

As demand for electric and hybrid powertrains rises, aluminum die casting is gaining increasing importance. Traditionally, car parts were made from steel stampings that were then bolted together by robots on a production line. Structural components produced in aluminum die casting have the benefit of integrating various parts traditionally produced in steel stamping, enabling a functional integration in one shot. Besides this, aluminum die cast components can increase the stiffness of the car body structure. They are lighter and thereby reduce vehicle weight, which finally also increases the reach of electric cars.


  • Who: Magna International
  • When: Founded in 1957.
  • What: Magna designs, engineers, and manufactures nearly every aspect of a vehicle. Its global network comprises 168,000 employees, 343 manufacturing operations, and 88 product development, engineering, and sales centers in 29 countries.

  • Where: Aurora, Ontario, Canada
  • Customer: Magna supplies 58 OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) around the world.
  • Bühler: Magna UK uses Bühler’s Carat 220 and 440 die-casting technology to make high-quality car parts.

A partnership is formed

Magna, one of the world’s largest suppliers of car components, is at the forefront of producing structural car parts. Around 10 years ago, the company decided to build and design a new 225,000 square foot aluminum casting facility outside Telford, in the West Midlands of England, capable of housing some of the largest die-casting cells in Europe, and situated for ease of supply of vehicle parts to its UK clients and built on a greenfield site. Magna chose Bühler as the supplier of one Carat 220 and seven Carat 440 compact die-casting cells.

“We did look at several suppliers as within Magna we do use other companies as well. With Bühler we recognized they are renowned for their quality and also that the local support within the UK was very good,” says Darren Height, General Manager of Magna UK. “We needed a close partner because there are not enough engineers in the world in the die-casting area and so we needed someone to support us while we implemented the machines as well as offering ongoing support and training.”

With 168,000 employees across 343 manufacturing operations in 29 different countries, Magna plants manufacture practically everything that goes into a car apart from the tires and windows. The Telford plant, run by Cosma, a division of Magna, specializes in making body structures from lightweight aluminum castings. The decision to work with Bühler was the start of a close working relationship resulting in a long-term collaboration. Seen as one of the most advanced die-casting operations in the world, colleagues from both companies have over recent years been learning from each other as they forge new ground in the field of die cast engineering.

We needed someone to support us while we implemented the machines as well as offering ongoing support and training.

Darren Height, General Manager, Magna UK

On a challenging scale

Building from scratch in Europe on a greenfield site is a relatively rare event in die casting. “This really does not happen very often,” explains Jeremy Mitchell, Head of Die Casting Northern Europe at Bühler. “I have been working for Bühler for over 30 years and this is only the second greenfield site that I’ve been personally involved in where we start with a muddy field and end up with the production hall that we have today.”

A greenfield site comes with many challenges. “It all starts with the design of the building itself to make the best use of the available space. In this project phase we supported Magna to fit the machines in the building,” Mitchell says. “This is not as easy as it might sound – we are talking about die-casting cells standing on over 100 square meters of floorspace and each of these needs a special foundation able to carry close to 300 tons of weight.”

magna magna The compact design of the Carat 440 die-casting cell at Magna UK enables stable production processes.

magna magna Magna UK chose the Carat 220 and Carat 440 for its needs. Carat is a two-platen die-casting solution with locking force ranging from 3,400 kN to 92,000 kN.

And, of course, a die-casting facility is not only about the die-casting equipment, it is also necessary from the beginning to plan for the flow path of the production itself. Starting from the aluminum ingot being delivered to the final product going out of the door after pre-assembly.

Each production process within the cell is interrelated, requiring Bühler to have oversight of each process. The furnace used to melt the aluminum needed to be at the right level for the larger machine, while Magna required a unique laser etch that needed to be incorporated into the cell. Such a high level of interconnectivity meant close collaboration. Bühler worked with Magna at every step of the way. Each cell involved a unique approach to both incorporate Magna’s existing production processes as well as adapting to handle much larger component sizes with all of the modifications designed to improve quality and improve efficiency. Originally planned for eight die-casting machines, the entire team showed a lot of flexibility by incorporating a ninth into the plans.

The building of the facility then involved some unique challenges, again including the sheer scale of the machines being installed. “We only had one door through which to get the large parts of the die-casting machine, which weighs 87 tons. With only centimeters to spare on either side of the lorries when they were trying to reverse, each move had to be plotted and planned to know exactly where the lorries needed to be to install the lifting equipment to lift such heavy weights,” says Mitchell. “The most exciting part of the project was when the first shot of the first die-casting cell was successful, after working towards this for almost two years.” The first part Magna needed from the die-casting cells was a two-cavity shock tower for Jaguar Land Rover. “That night, the entire team went out for a joint dinner to celebrate the successful first shot.”

Making the project work out so successfully was only possible with the great collaboration between the two companies and especially between the 20 people involved as a core team from the beginning. “Considering the immense size and complexity of the project, everything went smoothly,” Mitchell explains. “A project like this only comes along once or twice in your professional career. I am still at the Magna site regularly and every time I walk through the halls, I am proud to have been part of this amazing project and team.”

magna magna With the intuitive DataView control system, the operators can make real-time adjustments to the die-casting process in the entire cell – including peripheral devices – directly on the touchscreen.

Having provided support with the plant design and production cells, Bühler’s relationship with Magna entered a new phase with the opening of the plant in 2018. Training and technical support now moved center stage as Bühler provided comprehensive on-site training for Magna operators and is continuing to support with fast service operations.

Magna is involved in some of the most complicated thin-walled structural casting in the industry, requiring highly-skilled operators. Magna has plans to address the current shortfall in die-casting engineers through a combination of recruitment and upskilling existing staff. “We recognize that there is a generational gap when it comes to die cast engineering and we want to give back to the industry and start the next generation of engineers coming through,” explains Height. “There is the formal side of training which is sending people to classrooms, but a big part of it is on-the-job training, which is why we required resident engineers from Bühler working closely with us on that side of things.”

Close collaboration

Providing training for die-casting professionals to make the best use of the equipment is also a core competence Bühler is cultivating. Bühler offers training at its Application & Training Centers in China, the US, and Switzerland, and its team of highly trained die-casting professionals also offer training at customer sites on their own installed equipment – as in the case of Magna. Bühler has also learned a lot from the relationship.

Ian Asterley, Technical Manager at the Magna plant, has experience working in other die-casting operations. In addition to the advanced technology and high level of process control, a major advance in the Magna plant is the amount of real-time data available to process technicians and engineers, allowing more informed and accurate decisions during the production cycle.

The data is also providing important feedback for Bühler. “Getting the feedback off the machines is giving us a real opportunity to learn,” Asterley explains. “I think one of the great success stories is that it allows further collaboration with Bühler to improve the machines. We have added close to 10 extra modifications to the software. If we see an opportunity, we can spawn an idea and then work with Bühler to make it become a reality by producing a rollout plan.”

If we see an opportunity, we can spawn an idea and then work with Bühler to make it become a reality.

Ian Asterley, Technical Manager, Magna UK

Discover more about Magna’s greenfield plant in the UK in this video:

Content Block

How can we help?

Gupfenstrasse 5