In a recent development, Audi, a German luxury automobile manufacturer, tested a new automated method of body sealing known as digital sealing at the Gyor paint shop in Hungary. Post the paint process, a final paint finish is applied using a robot-guided applicator. This robot deposits ultra-fine droplets of paste-like sealing material in areas such as weld seams. The material is of uniform composition and quality. Before the application of this sealing, the machine is preset for optimal thickness and width of material to be applied. Digital sealing not only reduces the overall weight of the paints used but also reduces wastage and time taken during the paint process.
Audi has developed the new technology in partnership with Atlas Copco, which is headquartered in Sweden and specializes in making tools and equipment for industrial applications. This technology has multiple benefits such as aesthetics, ability to work effectively in hard-to-reach places, and fast application. Earlier, the paint sealant process often called for a lot of experience and meant demanding ergonomics involving car wash, sanding using wet sandpaper, polish using an orbital buffer, paint sealant application, and finally buff to shine. However, the new technology eliminates the additional intermediate steps and speeds up the sealing process.
Amit Suryavanshi – Senior Research Analyst: Automotive & Transportation Research at MarketsandMarkets™, shares his point of view as mentioned below:
The introduction of digital sealing can transform sealing processes in the automotive industry and enhance user experience. Because of the precision involved in the new process, there is no wastage of sealant material. The use of less material reduces the overall weight of the vehicle, which in turn improves vehicle dynamics and lowers carbon emissions.
Other major benefits of this new technology are enhanced protection against corrosion, time saving, and improved visual appearance of the seals. Audi has filed a patent application, and all Audi sites will phase in digital sealing in their manufacturing process, paving the way for other major OEMs to venture their way into digital sealing. While this technology will first be incorporated in premium automobiles, factors such as improved standard of living, rapid adoption of trending technologies by suppliers, increased environmental awareness, and rising demand for superior aesthetics are expected to accelerate the growth of the technology in other vehicle segments. Digitization is the new trend and soon at mass level the automotive industry will incorporate it.
Factors Impacting Introduction of Digital sealing
The automotive industry has witnessed rapid adoption of technological advancements in manufacturing processes. Various factors can determine the future scope of digital sealing. Firstly, digital sealing creates a strong cohesive layer of sealant, creating tight leak-proof seams preventing it from rusting, denting, giving it an enhanced polish shine. Second, the durability of digital sealing is higher than other sealing processes. Third, digital sealing can withstand environmental contaminants such as pollution, acid rains, which contain acidic substances, chemically active to penetrate and ruin the car sealants paint.
Fourth, and the most important feature of digital sealing is that it increases the resale value of a vehicle by preserving the quality of the vehicle’s aesthetics. Fifth, for human workers, it eliminates the need for workers to manually apply sealants in hard-to-reach places, ensuring safety of the workers.
Due to various advantages of the new technology, digital sealing is likely to become popular among automotive manufacturers. However, this technology is currently being tested in premium vehicles only. Increased cost of digitally sealed vehicles, increased maintenance cost of the equipment, need for skilled operators, and need to program the applicator carefully can pose a challenge.
The introduction of the digital sealing technology at Audi sites is likely to influence other leading automotive manufacturers and suppliers. Despite a few limitations, the several advantages of the new technology are likely to boost its demand among major OEMs. Decrease in vehicle weight, reduced carbon emissions, superior surface finish quality, and operator safety are the key benefits of the technology for OEMs. The global support for the increased adoption and production of electric vehicles will also drive the growth of the new sealing technology.
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