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An Eye-Catching Part of the Process

paint check

A vehicle’s color is indisputably important. With a wide spectrum of colors to choose from, the color of a vehicle is a way for the driver to express themselves. Not only that, a vehicle’s color has a substantial effect on its resale value. Elio Motors customers will have seven standard colors to choose from, each individually unique. As a part of our manufacturing and launch series, we will take another look at the painting process that will take place in our manufacturing facility.

There are two “sides” of the painting process. Last week we previewed the “Aquence” side, which includes applying the primer and corrosion resistance materials. That first stage in the process is led by our supplier partner Deyco, and they will oversee the tooling, equipment, conveyor, oven and tank aspects of the process. This week, we will take an in-depth look at the next step: the color side of the painting process. In this endeavor, we are again aided by another supplier partner, Oakland Automation.

Last week we left the process at the end of the Aquence application, the primer and corrosion resistance materials, at the transfer point from an overhead conveyor to a skid conveyor.

Maintaining a specific environment in this part of the process is essential. Overall, the facility must maintain a temperature of 70 degrees (+/- 10 degrees) and maintain 50% humidity (+/-10%). The temperature and humidity control is the first step along with “clean room” cleanliness and controlled air flow to ensure a high-quality paint job.

Here are the stages of the paint process:

1)            First, we will thoroughly inspect the vehicle. Employees at the plant will occupy the inspection station, looking for any imperfections on the body prior to painting. Any dents, scratches or defects will preclude us from applying a high-quality automotive paint job. Any defects will be repaired on the line en route to the next station.

2)            Next, the vehicle enters a tack off station. Basically, we will physically tack off the vehicles with a cloth to remove dust and contaminant from the surface of the vehicle.

3)            We will again tack the vehicle, followed by a “gas off” in which we will apply high-pressure gasses to remove any imperfections. This tack station utilizes a specially blended solution on the tack rag to ensure that the surface is perfect for painting.

4)            Now, the vehicle can move into the paint booth. The paint booth is broken up into sections, with a total length over 120’.

A. In the first section of the booth, the vehicle is “flashed,” which is a high-temperature air spray to further remove imperfections

B. After the initial flashing, the first coat of paint is applied. There are four robots in each paint section, two on each side, which will paint the outline of the vehicle.

C. After the first coat has been applied, the vehicle is flashed again to help the paint cure.

D. The vehicle now enters another paint booth to be painted by four robots which will apply paint to the exterior, as well as the interior panels.

E. Now, we will flash the vehicle for the final time.

F. If necessary, we will have a backup paint booth. In the event one of our robots is not functioning correctly, this final robot station can be utilized without experiencing a holdup in the line.

The vehicle maintains a steady progression throughout the painting process and is painted in one pass through the paint station.  Our robots can paint all seven colors with minimal change time required. The paint we will be using is a two-part VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) and is mixed in the “Paint Kitchen” where the team will carefully monitor the paint’s viscosity before being loaded into the painting chambers. The paint is electrostatically applied allowing for between 70 and 80% transfer efficiency of the paint to the body. We will have more on the paint itself in a future Momentum.

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At this point, the vehicle will proceed to an oven for curing. The oven is an 11’ high, 300’ long room that is kept around 200-220 degrees. The vehicles will travel through the oven over the next 30 minutes to ensure the necessary crosslinking of paint molecules to ensure a smooth, tough, high-quality finish. Then, the vehicles will enter an inspection booth for a thorough examination before moving on to Building A. If a vehicle does not pass inspection, it will be repaired in an adjacent repair area to keep the line moving.

The paint is the first thing that we see when we look at a vehicle and is a mandatory descriptor when talking about our vehicles. The technology behind that color and the exacting nature of the process makes us appreciate our supplier partners and teams even more on our way to creating mass produced masterpieces on the road.

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