Under construction – Engineering

We speak with those in the know about vehicle construction and the challenges that advanced, lightweight, multi-material usage poses for repair technicians.

The technology and materials involved in vehicle construction has changed drastically in recent years, with lightweight, multi-material usage vehicles becoming more of the norm. This has, in turn, had a knock-on effect on the repair industry, with bodyshops and industry suppliers having to invest and explore in new methods of repair and tooling, in order that a safe and effective repairs can be carried out on the latest vehicles.

Challenge

According to Steve Plunkett, body and paint development manager, Volvo, the industry is now seeing the real value (and improved usage) of specialist bodyshops around the country that are more technically capable and competent when it comes to repairing respective vehicle manufacturer brands. ‘This is just the start of a big sea of change’, said Steve, ‘it is only now that the industry seems to be really waking up to the fact that the technology in vehicles on the roads today, and even more so in the future, needs to go back to the respective manufacturer branded bodyshops for repairs to be carried out.’

Steve suggested the biggest challenge for repairers is to be able to know what it is they are repairing around todays vehicles, ‘once again this becomes less of a challenge to the technician when they are working in a vehicle manufacturer bodyshop as they will have received the appropriate vehicle current and relevant training straight from the company that designed them in the first place,’ explained Steve.

Volvo, which runs new model/product courses for its own approved body repair network, has for the past three years, run a body product technology course to great success for the wider industry, with many Insurers, work providers, suppliers and, indeed, non-Volvo approved bodyshops attending.’

‘This has seen just under 400 individuals come into our Training and Development Centre in Daventry for this session alone. It is already at stage two as we have recently made a one day new model XC90 course available to the industry with the first one running in January 2016. This has already sold out, so we have now made additional dates available,’ said Steve. As we see many new models enter the Volvo range so we will continue to invite the industry into Daventry to gain a greater understanding of our products and the relevant advances in technology. In 1959 Volvo pioneered the three point seatbelt and shared that technology with other car manufacturers, it is important to us that while we continue to innovate that we also continue to engage and share.’

Increase

Andrew Hooker, advanced repair study manager at Thatcham stated earlier this year that not only can we expect to see the continued increase in advanced high strength steels, but also further developments with material mixes and joining technologies as a result. He said we should expect more laser welding and laser spot welds, a big increase in adhesive joining, as well as more rivets and mechanical joints are expected. Andrew said, ‘Whilst the material choice is typically based on a desire for the right material in the right place, the choice of joining process by the vehicle manufacturer is very often based on speed in production, rather than any thought into repairability. This will probably also bring further welding developments such as the multi-tip spot welding we’re seeing now from Japan.’

On top of this we can expect to see a significant increase in aluminium content in each vehicle and, in all likelihood, the appearance of more reinforced composites materials to reduce weight further.

Cars are becoming ever more complex to repair. The materials and methods required to repair vehicles correctly and therefore safely will bring further challenges. The technology will continue to progress at an outstanding rate and the industry still needs to play catch up in many cases with what technology is currently on our roads, and then also keep up-to-date with new materials, construction and methodology introduced on brand new vehicles.