Making the painting of a vehicle cleaner is an industry-wide challenge, which different companies have attacked in different ways. GM manages traditional solvents through recycling, conversion to energy and superheating the potentially harmful gases to break them down. However, as you might have guessed, these processes are energy-consuming, complex and costly. So, if you can eliminate the solvents in the first place, well, then all the better.
GM says its flame treatment technology makes use of a robotic system that changes the molecular structure of the surface of the plastic. This, in turn, readies the plastic for paint and eliminates the need for an adhesion-promoting primer.
Sure, the robotic systems aren't cheap, but GM says they pay for themselves in less than four months. Currently, the flame treatment technology is being used on the Chevrolet Cruze, Sonic and Volt. Sound interesting? Then hit the jump to check out video of the robotic flamethrower in action. Yes, we said robotic flamethrower.
Adhesion alternative is energy efficient and practically emission free
DETROIT – General Motors is introducing a flame treatment technology that lets paint stick to plastic vehicle parts like instrument and door panels without using primers that contain solvents and can foul the air.
The use of solvents in paint primers is an industry-wide challenge. GM is committed to reducing emissions throughout its manufacturing operations and supply chain, so it manages traditional solvents through recycling, conversion to energy and superheating the gases to break them down. However, these are energy-consuming, costly processes.
This flame treatment technology instead uses an energy-efficient, robotic system to create a molecular change to the surface of the plastic, making it bond with the paint. The process eliminates the need for an adhesion-promoting primer.
GM evaluated the new technology as a total business case. Not only does it improve efficiency since it's faster than spraying primer, but the capital expense pays for itself in less than four months. It's being used on the Chevrolet Cruze, Sonic, and Volt.
By using it on the Cruze, for example, GM suppliers:
Reduced solid and liquid waste (filters, cleaners, solvents and coatings) from 48 tons a year to less than one.
Decreased air pollutants from 810 tons a year to 80 tons a year.
Eliminated landfill waste like paint sludge and painted scrap material from 25 tons to nearly zero.
GM learned about this technology through Suppliers Partnership for the Environment, a working group of U.S. automakers, their suppliers and the Environmental Protection Agency. Whitmore Lake, Mich.-based supplier FTS Technologies was striving to get its flame treatment technology implemented and approached John Bradburn, GM's manager of waste-reduction efforts.
"Once I understood the potential of this process, we worked to connect the right GM engineers and our suppliers," said Bradburn. "As we strive to design all of our vehicles for the environment, we can create requirements for our suppliers. In this case we were able to provide the enabling technology, making it easier for all of us."
Said Russell Brynolf, president of FTS: "As engineers and technology developers, we have the capability to improve the environmental footprint of the manufacturing process. Technology drives us forward and it's encouraging to see companies like GM willing to change a process."
About General Motors – General Motors (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM), one of the world's largest automakers, traces its roots back to 1908. With its global headquarters in Detroit, GM employs 208,000 people in every major region of the world and does business in more than 120 countries. GM and its strategic partners produce cars and trucks in 30 countries, and sell and service these vehicles through the following brands: Baojun, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Daewoo, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall, and Wuling. The global Chevrolet brand celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2011. GM's largest national market is China, followed by the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and Italy. GM's OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services. More information on the new General Motors can be found at www.gm.com.