For most of us, the color of our vehicles is quite important. Some of us want to blend in with the crowd and select one of the more common colors, while others want to stand out and add some pigment to the roadways. For buyers, much time can be spent contemplating the right color, but once the decision is made, the process is complete. For manufacturers, however, the process begins long before the vehicle is even transferred to a paint booth. The process of prepping a vehicle to be painted requires an extensive expertise in both chemistry and physics as well as engineering applications in the Mechanical, Electrical, and Computer fields.
Today, as a part of our look at our manufacturing and launch plan, we will look at what will happen to a vehicle when it leaves the raw stamping phase, which means the vehicle’s body framing is complete and ready to be painted (body in white.) At this point, our objective is to turn the welded raw steel of the body to a vehicle that is corrosion resistant and ready for the application of automotive paint. This part of the vehicle’s journey is the Frame Cleaning and Coatings phase. As we have mentioned, the vehicles will run along an automated conveyance system. Between the body in white phase and the Frame Cleaning and Coatings phase, the vehicle will enter an overhead conveyance mechanism.
This process will take place in the pre-paint section of Building B and will occupy approximately 107,000 square feet of the building. The Frame Cleaning and Coatings phase has several key objectives; clean, prep, apply and bake the material into the vehicle prior to the painting process.
Here are the 11 steps we take before your Elio is ready to be painted:
1. The vehicle is dipped in an alkaline cleaning bath to remove any grease, dirt, or oils from the steel. The vehicle is submerged in a 77-foot-long tank, containing 21,000 gallons, for 120 seconds at 180 degrees.
2. We again dip the vehicle into an alkaline bath, though this tank is 85-foot long. This ensures that the vehicle is absolved of any remaining residues.
3. We give the vehicle a shower with 120-degree water for 60 seconds.
4. Now, the vehicle is acid cleaned for further cleaning and to put a light etch in the surface to help final paint adherence.
5. This stage will be repeated at specific intervals through the rest of the process. The vehicle is water rinsed for 60 seconds in a 93-foot-long tank with 14,000 gallons at room temperature.
6. We will again clean the vehicle in a 21,000-gallon alkaline tank, this time for 120 seconds at 180 degrees.
7. A room temperature water rinse takes place for 60 seconds in a 65-foot-long tank.
8. Now, a reverse osmosis water rinse takes place for 60 seconds.
9. The vehicle is dipped into a 76-foot-long, 21,000-gallon tank for 120 seconds in an Aquence Coating system, which is provided by Henkel (one of our blue-chip suppliers.) This is the material that provides corrosion resistance and adherence.
10. We rinse the vehicle in room temperature water for 60 seconds in a 13,000-gallon tank.
11. In the same sized tank as step 10, we give the vehicle its final rinse in 150-degree water.
The vehicle is then transferred into a natural gas heated oven. The vehicle sits in the 50-foot-wide, 332-foot-long, and 12-foot-high oven for 40 minutes. Then, the vehicle is automatically transferred from the overhead conveyor to a skid conveyor and ready to move along to the painting phase.
As you can see, there’s more that goes into your vehicle’s color than meets the eye. The steps above are a deeply condensed version of years and years of experience and knowledge from the Elio engineering, launch, and manufacturing teams as well as our supplier partners.
The next step in our journey through the plant will take a look at the painting process.