New McLaren Senna and MP4/5 F1 car in McLaren Composites Technology Centre
The British sports car maker is gearing up to build the carbonfibre tubs for its range of road cars from its new facility in South Yorkshire
McLaren Automotive’s new £50m carbonfibre manufacturing centre in South Yorkshire moved a significant step closer to operational readiness today.
The sports car manufacturer hosted a modest inauguration ceremony to celebrate its nameplate being hoisted above the main entrance of the McLaren Composites Technology Centre (MCTC). McLaren Automotive chief executive officer Mike Flewitt was on hand to illuminate the sign for the first time.
Inside the building, which is about 75,000 sq ft in size, a new McLaren Senna hypercar performed doughnuts to ‘christen’ the newly laid factory floor.
The shell of the building – which is located in the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Catcliffe, between Sheffield and Rotherham – is completed and the interior is being readied for the installation of the machines that will enable McLaren to build the one-piece carbonfibre ‘MonoCell’ tubs that form the basis of its cars.
Currently that task is sub-contracted to a Salzburg-based company named Carbo Tech. Production of tubs will begin at the MCTC in 2019, although McLaren already has 40 employees based in South Yorkshire as it ramps up for the facility’s full opening.
Those employees are currently embedded within the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), which is a partner in McLaren’s new facility.
Using the university’s facilities, McLaren’s team is already making pre-production versions of the MonoCell to build up experience of the build processes, which are said to embrace some new techniques and more automation. Additionally McLaren apprentices who will work in the new facility are being trained.
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, it is anticipated that about 200 people will work there. The completed tubs will be shipped from Sheffield to the McLaren Production Centre in Woking, Surrey, for assembly into the finished cars.
Ken Smart, project director for the MCTC, said: “The factory is being finished off at the moment and will be handed over to us in mid-April. From then through to about September we will be fitting it out with some of the infrastructure and then the manufacturing technology.
“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, 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.
McLaren's carbonfibre manufacturing centre nears completion