In the early days of automobile production, everything was “local” and “simple.” The raw materials required for the car, such as steel or rubber may have come from other destinations, but the actual processing of those materials, and the eventual assembly were all done in the same plant.
Now, we live in a much more globalized industry. A car that is ultimately sold to a customer in New York or Chicago is no longer built strictly in Detroit. Materials used in assembly can come from all corners of the world. And one vehicle may have components made by suppliers in Mexico, Canada, or even China, which are then shipped to the United States, where the vehicle will ultimately be built.
And it’s extremely unusual for a modern car to have an all-steel chassis, body panels, or other components. These pieces could be composed of alloys, plastics, composites or other materials. With all the different pieces coming together to build one vehicle, it seems like it would be difficult for an automaker to ensure consistency across all makes and models.
In fact, it isn’t easy.
Take a closer look at some of the vehicles you see in the showroom or at an auto show. You may notice that the finish on the bumper doesn’t quite match the color, texture, or gloss of the finish on the door or the side-view mirror. Because these parts may be made of different materials and/or in different environments, they require careful attention to deliver a consistent finish across the entire vehicle.
Today’s cars use diverse materials to deliver better performance and a competitive advantage. Steel is still an important component of any car, but it may sit comfortably alongside aluminum panels, plastic bumpers or fascias, composite or even carbon fiber exterior parts.
Each of these materials provides different advantages in terms of durability, flexibility, shock absorption and many other factors. But each of these materials also react differently to different substances, and that includes paint. Older paint technologies had trouble maintaining a uniform shade or color across an automobile that was comprised of steel and aluminum. It became even more problematic with plastic and composite materials.
These days, many of these material issues can be resolved through meticulous process control, which allows the paint, when applied, to perform more consistently, and more reliably, producing a uniform look regardless of what substrate it is put on. One of these critical process variables is temperature.
The other issue with working on a global industrial level is that different parts of a car may be coming from different parts of the world. Each factory resides in a different region and may have to develop its own methods of construction or proportions of materials used due to variations in climate and ambient temperature. In another of our articles, Daily vs. Seasonal Temperature Changes, we look at how daily changes in ambient temperature can impact the performance of a paint process, as well as the quality of the finished product.
On top of this, different countries themselves may have different requirements for a car that is, ostensibly, supposed to be part of a well-established product line. The Ford Mustang, for example, had numerous variants in the hoods available. These production differences could also require diverse paint formulations and process controls to achieve a uniform look and color for the vehicle.
Modern automobiles are more complex pieces of hardware that are being produced faster and more efficiently than ever before. But without dedicated temperature control solutions, the auto manufacturing and paint process will have trouble delivering the consistency and quality that customers demand.
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