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Production officially launched at the Kunshan iron foundry

(PresseBox) (Kunshan, ) For a number of years, GF Automotive has been producing aluminium castings in China for the Chinese automotive industry. Now the Swiss company's foundry will also manufacture cast iron components locally. On May 15, right on schedule, the Kunshan iron foundry started up its regular production, making GF Automotive an even more flexible partner for the Asian market.
GF is one of the few manufacturers in China offering safety components made of spheroidal graphite. The manufacturing process used in the new plant produces light-weight components to the highest Swiss standards and is unique in China. The plant has already received numerous orders from Chinese and international customers, ensuring that it will run at high capacity from the outset. GF customers and business partners, together with the Executive Committee and employees of Georg Fischer, inaugurated the facility.

The new plant in Kunshan is a further milestone in the strategy ongoing expansion of Georg Fischer in the fast-growing Asian markets. The first step along this road was the light-metal foundry opened in Suzhou in 2005. The 300 employees in Suzhou manufacture aluminium products by pressure die casting primarily for the Chinese market. The new iron foundry in Kunshan is located only 30 kilometres away, creating synergies between the two plants. Georg Fischer Automotive has invested CHF 50 million (RMB 320 million) in the new facility. The Chinese market, which is growing despite the economic crisis, has substantial demand for spheroidal graphite safety parts such as swivel bearings, wheel mounts and transverse rods. In addition, new Chinese legal provisions on exhaust gases and vehicle fuel consumption levels are driving demand for lightweight components manufactured to the latest standards.

Josef Edbauer, Head of GF Automotive, is very upbeat about the future of this new plant: "Even if the economic crisis causes a small dip on the Chinese automotive market - we are confident that the Kunshan foundry will be a success." On the inauguration day, the machines started producing the first components for Chinese carmakers in the presence of the guests.

Located in the Economic & Technical Development Zone of Kunshan, Georg Fischer Automotive (Kunshan) Co. Ltd. is strategically placed, with a secure energy supply and good transport links. On a total surface of 56,000 sq. metres, the foundry was built in the record time of 16 months. The 22,000 sq. metre production hall rests on 1,500 concrete piles. The core of the plant is the four electric furnaces, each with eight megawatts of power and a capacity of ten tonnes. The annual total smelting capacity of the production line is 35,000 tonnes. The facility consists of a smelter, plus a mould and shot blast plant along with a separate office wing. The Kunshan plant has two 31.5 megawatt transformers, which provide 10 kilovolts of voltage to the furnaces. GF Automotive can expand the foundry's smelting and mould capacity if necessary.

The product range of the Kunshan plant includes the following components made of the highly cost-effective material spheroidal graphite:

- Swivel bearings for passenger vehicles
- Steering knuckles for passenger vehicles
- Wheel mounts for passenger vehicles
- Control arms for passenger vehicles
- Crankshafts for passenger vehicles
- Wheel hubs for commercial vehicles
- Small axles for commercial vehicles
- Brake callipers for commercial vehicles

A host of advantages for GF customers in China

Chinese automakers benefit in a number of ways from Georg Fischer's presence in Kunshan. For one thing, GF can respond flexibly and swiftly to customer wishes and changes in needs. In the constantly fluctuating and highly competitive Chinese automotive market, this is of utmost importance because it means that components don't take weeks to arrive by sea. Customers in China can also purchase parts from GF more cheaply than from other providers because cast iron is less expensive than welded or forged iron designs, yet the quality is identical.

Unlike GF, most providers of safety parts in China do not venture to produce iron castings. As Mujia Zhang, Head of GF Automotive in China, explains, "If you want to manufacture safety components made of cast iron, you first have to master the process." Georg Fischer has almost 30 years of experience with spheroidal graphite safety components under its belt and is continuously improving its engineering design. GF Automotive is regarded as an international materials and process specialist in this area. The plant in Kunshan has the same far-reaching know-how as the European plants of GF and also employs the Central Laboratory in Switzerland to ensure quality control. Zhang explains: "Thanks to our light-weight construction, we achieve a significant reduction in weight with our thin-walled safety components made of spheroidal graphite." Another advantage is that the spheroidal graphite castings from GF require significantly less space than comparable aluminium parts and can be used where space is at a premium.

The foundry in Kunshan, which will initially work one shift with 110 employees, will introduce a second shift in September with 170 employees. Next year, the plant will go over to a three-shift operation with 250 employees. The facility has a total of 140,000 sq. metres of land earmarked for construction, where another four modules can be built.

Georg Fischer AG

Georg Fischer is focused on its three core businesses GF Piping Systems, GF Automotive and GF AgieCharmilles.

Founded in 1802, the company is headquartered in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, and has over 140 locations worldwide including 50 production facilities. With some 14,000 employees, it generated annual sales of 4.5 billion Swiss francs in 2008.

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