The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, accompanied by the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Bahrain, have officially opened McLaren Automotive's second production facility in Sheffield.
The McLaren Composites Technology Centre (MCTC) will become the Woking-based manufacturer's carbonfibre testing facility, as part of the company's push to save weight and improve the energy efficiency of its cars.
On hand to watch the unveiling of a commemorative carbonfibre plaque were representatives from Sheffield and Rotherham district councils, a number of senior local stakeholders, and the new facility's already 50-strong workforce.
The site, McLaren's first outside its Woking home, is located in the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Catcliffe, between Sheffield and Rotherham.
An earlier event to celebrate the facility's birth has already seen a Senna hypercar perform doughnuts to ‘christen’ the newly laid factory floor, which spans 75,000sq ft.
Forty-five McLaren employees are located at the nearby University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), which is partnering McLaren. This team is set to grow to 200 and is working on pushing advances in carbonfibre tub technology.
Using the university’s facilities, McLaren’s team is making pre-production versions of its one-piece 'MonoCell' tubs that form the basis of its cars. Employees are therefore already gaining experience of the build processes, which are said to embrace some new techniques and more automation. Additionally, McLaren is training apprentices who will work at the new facility.
Currently, the task of tub production is sub-contracted to a Salzburg-based company named Carbo Tech. Production of tubs will begin at the MCTC in 2019.
The British content of McLaren’s cars will increase from 50% to 58% when the Sheffield-made tubs are used.
When the MCTC is fully operational, the completed tubs it makes will be transported from Sheffield to the McLaren Production Centre in Woking for assembly into the finished cars.
Ken Smart, project director for the MCTC, said: “There are two key reasons why we are developing this facility. First, taking control of the manufacture of the tub enables us to build in more design flexibility. So, as we develop the vehicles, we will be able to design the tubs to meet the features of those vehicles; things that matter to the customer, such as vehicle dynamics, ergonomics, space in the cabin, the driving position, visibility, ingress and egress.
“Second, and perhaps more importantly, it gives us the opportunity to continually learn from the development process. Every time we solve a problem, we learn something new.
“That gives us the ability to modify the design for its structural integrity and gives us the ability to optimise the manufacturing processes yet further. Taking this technology in-house is giving us the opportunity to increase the pace of the design and development of the carbonfibre tub.”
The new facility will also lead to a cost saving in the region of £10m (Rs 93 crore), according to McLaren chiefs, and there is potential for the MCTC to supply carbonfibre components for other companies, because McLaren’s production targets for the foreseeable future will leave the Sheffield plant with surplus capacity when it is fully operational.
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