CITIC Dicastal Co. Ltd., a Chinese manufacturer of cast aluminum automotive wheels selected StrikoWestofen to supply the melting technology for its Greenville, MI, project. Diecastal North America Inc. was announced in September 2014 as a $140-milion revamp and restart for a former United Solar Ovonic LLC photovoltaic systems plant.

Diecastal North America plans to produce 3 million aluminum alloy wheels annually at the plant. The existing manufacturing space was enlarged by 100,000 sq.ft. to accommodate the new operation. It has previously indicated it would hire up to 300 workers over four years.

The Michigan operation is a new unit of the same ownership group expanding KSM Castings USA in Shelby, NC, which produces diecast aluminum transmission parts and is expanding to produce a new line of structural aluminum casting for automotive manufacturers.

Diecastal North America received an $8.5 million incentive package from local and state sources for the Greenville project. Separately, it took advantage of $1.5 million in state aid to hire and train workers.

StrikoWestofen, the German developer of melting, holding, and pouring systems for aluminum reported its StrikoWestofen Asia subsidiary would supply three StrikoMelter furnaces for the Michigan plant. It noted that the CITIC Dicastal “made high technical demands” of prospective suppliers, in particular “energy-efficient melting systems with low metal loss.”

The StrikoMelter is a shaft furnace design with a patented system (ETAmax) that combines charge preheating, heating, and melting phases efficiently in a single melting channel (or “shaft”).  As metal returns and ingots are melted in the lower section, the combustion gases preheat the new charge material in the shaft area above it.

Molten metal is transferred to the holding bath, without turbulence, the designer emphasized, which reduces waste and maintains a preset holding temperature with accuracy. According to StrikoWestofen, the recuperative concept is simple and effective, providing significant savings in fuel consumption and reductions in metal loss.

“The main factors influencing the decision were the efficient use of energy, the minimal metal loss and the extremely low emission values,” according to Rainer Erdmann, managing director for StrikoWestofen Asia. The high system availability and the option of recycling aluminum chips independently, for maximum metal yield and furnace productivity, also were decisive factors.

Dicastal installed three StrikoMelter furnaces at its plant in Ningbo in the province of Zhèjiāng, in 2013.

StrikoDynarad, in Zeeland, MI, will provide extended technical maintenance and spare parts for the three furnaces.

CITIC Dicastal Wheel Manufacturing was formed in 1988 by CITIC (a Chinese state-owned industrial holding company) and was the first aluminum-alloy wheel manufacturer in that country. It claims to be one of the largest manufacturers of aluminum automotive wheels in the world, supplying Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, and Toyota, in addition to Chinese automakers.