• This... is... TONAWANDA!!!! Built in 1937, in 1938 it began production of Chevrolet's "Stove Bolt" inline six-cylinder, so named because it used the 1/4-inch x 20 bolts found on unwelded wood-burning stoves. It also built 14- and 18-cylinder Pratt & Whitney engines during World War II, the first Corvette's only engine in 1953 the first small-blocks in 1955, the first big-blocks in 19458, and now the Gen V small-block.
  • Image Credit: AOL
  • Image Credit: AOL
  • These are the other players: the 4.3-liter V6, the 5.3-liter V8 and the 6.2-liter V8 EcoTec3 line-up.

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  • That's one bank of Smart Drive machines in the background. The action inside one of them can be viewed on the monitor.
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  • A set of tools to finish a particular block and head are arranged on trays. Each tool has an RFID chip so the Smart Drive knows it has the right implement, and the Smart Drive also knows how many hours a tool has logged and when it needs to be retired.
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  • The holes at the ends of these tools are channels for coolant.
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  • A closer look at an unfinished block.
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  • A close up on the threads in the finished block. Remember these - we'll come back to them...
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  • The synthetic-ruby-tipped instruments in one of the 12 Zeiss Accura Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMM) check to see, to within 2.5 microns, if a finished block is within tolerances. The enclosure is temperature-controlled and the CMM can be programmed to check any aspect of a block and 11,000 data points.

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  • The summary of measurements taken by the Zeiss.
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  • Due to the time each test takes, not all blocks are tested, but the ones that pass get their happy face and get put back on the line.
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  • The final back-up: a man at a workbench with a set of hand tools.
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  • Blocks that don't clear this hurdle are set aside.
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  • On the side of the block in between the main bearing caps is the laser-etched 2D code that looks like a QR code. It is another measure - on top of the databolts - used to make sure assembly line machine is performing the proper process on the proper block.
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  • Beneath the fan at the top of the picture and next to the red cup, that's a camera used to read the 2D code. These can pinpoint the exact time a block or head went through a particular process.
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  • This is what it looks like.
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  • Crankshafts. Because... crankshafts. And because a line just for crankshafts is being installed at the plant.
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  • Sleeves used to place pistons in the cylinders.
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  • Blocks on their merry way to the middle of the floor where they'll be joined to finished cylinders.
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  • The 2D code on a cylinder head.
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  • One of the robotic arms used to feed blocks and trays to a Smart Cell. The empty trays mean this head has been built up.
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  • The head being turned over for the next stage in the process.
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  • The underside of the SIDI fuel injection system, showing the spring underneath the high-pressure pump that is run off a lobe on the camshaft.
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  • As Boys II Men said: "injection, fellas..."
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  • The underside of a V6 cylinder head.
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  • The cylinder-head torque-down machine.
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  • We were told that less than one engine out of 600 produced has a problem. When they do, the numerous checks ensure they get shunted off the line --
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  • Image Credit: GM
  • After all that, here's a bit of low-tech: a bicycle water bottle and cage is used to collect any condensation in the pneumatic lines that run the flying robots. When we expressed shock to our tour guide at seeing a plain old water bottle among a hundreds of millions of dollars of factory upgrades, he said, "It works."
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