Prototype carbonfibre cell completed at McLaren Composites Centre

McLaren PLT-MCTC-01 carbonfibre tub

First model to use MCTC-produced tubs will arrive in 2020

£50m Sheffield-based facility delivers the first MonoCell lightweight tub to McLaren’s Woking factory

The first prototype of McLaren’s new MonoCell carbonfibre tubs has been delivered by the firm’s £50m Composites Technology Centre (MCTC) in Sheffield to its main production facility in Surrey.

Codenamed ‘PLT-MCTC-01’ (Prototype Lightweight Tub, McLaren Composites Technology Centre – 01), the lightweight chassis is the first step towards saving weight across the company’s range in preparation to roll out hybrid technology across its entire range by 2024. 

McLaren will now subject the new chassis to a thorough crash test programme at its main Woking facility, ahead of the 2020 launch of McLaren’s first MonoCell-equipped production model.

Wes Jacklin, plant director at the MCTC, said: “It’s increasingly clear that with future heavier powertrain requirements, exploiting innovative lightweighting techniques and technologies is going to be a significant key to unlocking all the handling and agility characteristics that our customers demand.”

McLaren’s second production facility was officially opened in November by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, accompanied by the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Bahrain. The site is located in the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Catcliffe, between Sheffield and Rotherham.

Full-scale production is anticipated to begin next year, with the current 60-strong workforce to swell to over 200.  

Currently, production of carbonfibre tubs for McLaren production models, including the Speedtail hypercar and upcoming grand tourer, is sub-contracted to a company named Carbo Tech, based in Magna where the Jaguar I-Pace and E-Pace are built. This firm will continue to supply carbonfibre components to McLaren as of next year, with the MCTC producing only MonoCell tubs. 

The British content of McLaren’s cars will increase from 50% to 58% when the Sheffield-made tubs are used.

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.

Pre-production versions of MonoCell tubs are being built in association with the university, with apprentices being trained to work at the new facility.

In November, the unveiling of a commemorative carbonfibre plaque at the MCTC’s opening ceremony was watched by representatives from Sheffield and Rotherham district councils, a number of senior local stakeholders, and the facility’s team of engineers.

An event to celebrate the facility’s opening saw a Senna hypercar perform doughnuts to ‘christen’ the newly laid factory floor, which spans 75,000sq ft.

Speaking at the unveiling, 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, 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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Source: Autocar Online

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