Magna UK

Forging partnerships to drive change

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. But 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 more than doubled last year reaching 6.6 million globally and 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 stiffness of the car body structure, they are lighter and thereby reduce vehicle weight, which finally also increases the reach of electric cars. 

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. 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. 

View of Carat cell View of Carat cell Carat 440 die-casting cell at Magna UK
Portrait picture of man Portrait picture of man Darren Height, General Manager, Magna UK

“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 UK was very good,” explains Darren Height, General Manager of Magna UK. “We needed a close partner because there are not enough engineers generally 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 on-going support and training.” 

With 158,000 employees across 347 manufacturing operations in 28 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. 

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, Bühler Head of Die Casting for Northern Europe. “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 m2 floorspace and each of these needs a special foundation able to carry the close to 300 tons of weight.” 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. 

Jeremy Mitchell, Bühler Head of Die Casting for Northern Europe Jeremy Mitchell, Bühler Head of Die Casting for Northern Europe Jeremy Mitchell, Bühler Head of Die Casting for Northern Europe

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 inter connectivity 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 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 than 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 spare 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 would be to install the lifting equipment to lift such heavy weights,” explains 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, Ben Goater took out the entire team 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.”

View of Carat die casting cell with 3 people standing in front of it View of Carat die casting cell with 3 people standing in front of it Carat two-platen system & support on-site

Close collaboration

Having provided support with the plant design and production cells, Bühler’s relationship with Magna now 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.


Person standing in front of notes showing something Person standing in front of notes showing something Alex Fowler, Area Support Service Manager, Die Casting UK

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 there is a generational gap when it comes to die cast engineering and we want to put back into 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 here from Bühler working closely with us on that side of things.” Providing training for die-casting professionals to make the best use from 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, the Magna plant’s Technical Manager, has experience of 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 feedback for Bühler. “Getting the feedback off the machines is giving us a real opportunity to learn,” explains Asterley. “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.”

Contact us

Content Block

How can we help?

Gupfenstrasse 5