Kobelco Aluminum Products & Extrusions Inc. (KPEX), a subsidiary of Kobe Steel, broke ground on its new production facility in Bowling Green, Kentucky (announced in May), officially marking the start of construction. The new facility will manufacture and sell aluminum bumper beam material and car frame material for the automotive industry in the U.S.
KPEX represents a $46.7 million investment that will include a melting and casting line, one extrusion press, and two bumper fabrication lines, with a production capacity that is expected to be about 500 tons per month. Fabrication operations are set to begin in the second half of 2017, and the melting to extrusion processes will begin in the second half of 2018.
Kobe Steel expects to serve demand growth for aluminum extrusions in the future. The company has been supplying aluminum bumper materials to Japanese automakers since the 1990s. According to the company, its original weight-saving proposals covering both product development for high-strength 7000 series aluminum alloys and cross-section design technology have received high acclaim from customers. KPEX aims to gain the trust of automakers in North America in the same way, as well as contribute to strengthening Kobe Steel’s supply network in Japan and the U.S.
“Cars need to be lighter to reduce CO2 emissions and improve mileage. Many automakers want to use lighter materials, and our products have received high marks from them,” Takumi Fujii, managing executive officer of Kobe Steel, said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “As demand for lightweight materials increases, I look forward to the future growth of KPEX.”
In addition to Fujii and other executives from Kobe Steel and KPEX, major participants in the groundbreaking ceremony included Bruce Wilkerson, mayor of Bowling Green and Mike Buchanon, judge-executive of Warren County.
The new KPEX facility will be located across from Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products, LLC (KAAP), which makes aluminum forgings for automotive suspension systems and aluminum cast rods for compressors. KAAP also recently announced its own expansion plans in a $57 million investment, which will include the addition of 116,000 sq ft of manufacturing space with two new forging presses, a new melting furnace, and several new production lines.