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With Aptera's 2e electric vehicle headed into the lab for final validation testing in the Automotive X-Prize's side-by-side class (against only four other vehicles), the company's latest newsletter is looking to the recent past and the future. Sure, there's the obligatory X-Prize update, but the more interesting bits of information come from an interview with Dave Oakley, Aptera's VP of Manufacturing.
Apparently, Aptera used the somewhat controversial Six Sigma method to optimize the new composite material on the 2e. Oakley said the original material on the 2e wasn't perfect in both appearance and consistency. He told his in-house writer:
We applied Six Sigma to optimize the materials we started with, which led us to change those materials to make them more production-worthy... The new material is made of sandwich core construction, which is a combination of several dry reinforced materials molded together using a resin. This construction gives us a material with a form similar to an I-beam running the length of the surface. The result is a material that is three to four times as strong as steel, yet the body is so lightweight a couple of people can lift it.
Another benefit, Oakley said, is lower cost, which is always a good thing. Read the entire piece after the jump.

[Source: Aptera]

Aptera Newsletter

Interview with Dave Oakley: Aptera VP of Manufacturing: Six Sigma Helps Optimize Composite Material of the 2e

One of the fundamental tenets behind Aptera's vehicle design has been the use of composite materials, which offer light weight, strength and affordability. Additionally, another goal has been to make the overall body lighter, stronger and more affordable.

"In the beginning we had a very good starting point with materials, which were used for all the pre-production vehicles," said Dave Oakley, Vice President of Manufacturing at Aptera. "But we had some issues with the cosmetic appearance and part dimensional consistency."

Oakley and his team decided to improve the materials using Six Sigma, a methodology that utilizes data and statistical analysis to measure and improve operational performance by identifying and eliminating "defects."

"We applied Six Sigma to optimize the materials we started with, which led us to change those materials to make them more production-worthy," said Oakley, who saved Callaway Golf millions of dollars by using Six Sigma practices before joining Aptera in 2009. "We now have better consistency from part-to-part, better surface quality and improved chemical stability. We achieved these gains while preserving all the positive qualities like strength and light weight of the previous material.

"The new material is made of sandwich core construction, which is a combination of several dry reinforced materials molded together using a resin. This construction gives us a material with a form similar to an I-beam running the length of the surface," said Oakley. "The result is a material that is three to four times as strong as steel, yet the body is so lightweight a couple of people can lift it.

"Surface quality is a key factor in automobiles. Every automaker in the world wants the vehicle to have a smooth glasslike surface when it is sitting in the showroom. Our changes improve the surface quality, which makes it easier to finish and improve the cosmetic appearance. We've also enhanced the part-to-part consistency. This is a critical element in controlling to cost of a composite body vehicle because it drastically reduces the amount hand-finishing that is required after the part is released from the mold. That was a significant driver of cost and assembly time with our previous material system.

"The coolest part of the Six Sigma process is that we've optimized the performance while driving down the cost, so we're able to get the most out of the materials and produce the 2e more economically
."


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 13 Comments
      • 1 Month Ago
      Six sigma!? What about using science and engineering? If this is true Aptera loses all credibility. Six sigma is only good to lower quality to save money until something breaks.
      • 1 Month Ago
      Vaporware. At this rate, I think EEstor will have something in production prior to Aptera.
      • 1 Month Ago
      Jack Donaghy would be proud!
      • 1 Month Ago
      I, for one, am greatly looking forward to an Aptera. So much so that I've got my own p.o. box in California so I claim I receive my mail in CA in order to buy one. It's functional and priced right. I just wish they'd quit making these minor adjustments and start production already.
      http://www.carsfind.net
      • 1 Month Ago
      not sure a production nuance changes the whole dead in the water situation
      • 1 Month Ago
      They could use magic and its still a dead company.. or will be soon.
      • 1 Month Ago
      Ugh! They brought in Six Sigma at work, all of sudden we had a all kinds of cutesy titles for managers (master black belts) and yellow belt training...

      It is practically a cult. You can do continuous improvement without being cultish about it.

      My company went down to tube and was sold off in pieces while they were arranging the deck chairs with six sigma strategies.
        • 1 Month Ago
        Yikes. That sounds bad.
        We had to go through Dale Carnegie right before our company went to crap and i got laid off. I'm thinking this is the same kinda crap..

        Fail.
      • 1 Month Ago
      Welcome to another episode of "As Aptera Spins"...

      Though nothing but a mild re-hashing of previous spin, the "new and improved!" composites story is actually the better part of August's newsletter.

      The other?

      "Aptera just completed the move into their new home, a 200,000 square-foot facility in Oceanside that's not far from the company's former headquarters in Vista. The new locale is large enough to handle production of the 2e and serve as home to all design, research & development and administration personnel."

      Combine the shrunken staff, the lack of funding, and their humiliating "performance" in the X Prize, and it is plain to see what a ridiculous decision this was.

      Watching CEO Paul Wilbur and his merry band of Detroit rejects slowly destroy the once promising Aptera is painful and difficult. Like watching a Bergman film without the jokes.

      Peace,
      William
      • 1 Month Ago
      Perhaps they could focus on being a startup and not acting like a big corporation with fat salaries. They may also consider refunding deposits for the many people who have been waiting for months with no response or word from Aptera because they can't even afford an email bot to respond to cancellations, the ones which are going to increase rapidly after their sad performance at this event. The should have use the 6 Sigma process to validate the team they hired that brought this company down. Even a few background checks may have prevented the demise of this great idea.
      • 1 Month Ago
      '"Surface quality is a key factor in automobiles. Every automaker in the world wants the vehicle to have a smooth glasslike surface when it is sitting in the showroom. Our changes improve the surface quality, which makes it easier to finish and improve the cosmetic appearance. '

      Aerodynamics may mean that dimples or other patterning of the surface is more efficient:
      http://www.racecar-engineering.com/allarticles/166403/dimpled-aerodynamic-surfaces.html
        • 1 Month Ago
        Nice link, that was a good read.

        Thing is, surface roughness is only good for when the flow is on the verge of separation. Aptera has designed their chassis to minimize separation, and thus pressure drag at the rear of the vehicle. In their case, adding patches of surface roughness would create additional skin friction drag, and hurt the aerodynamic performance of the vehicle.

        IF they are having flow separation problems on key areas of the car, then a dimpled or rough surface could help reduce drag in that area, but if they are maintaining laminar flow along the length of the body, there is no need for it.

        It would all have to be tested and tuned in a wind tunnel, as aerodynamics is such a finicky science that every specific application can yield different results.
      • 1 Month Ago
      These theatrics are both parts entertaining and depressing to watch.

      I knew this wasn't gonna work out.
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