The development of an industrial vehicle begins long before it reaches the factories, and the design process plays a fundamental role when it comes to offering a vehicle adapted to the needs of each client. One of the great challenges when starting this important step in the design of a vehicle is to achieve a balance between design, aerodynamic efficiency, practicality, habitability… How is it achieved? Luis Miguel Aguera, responsible for the Body and Paint Units of the IVECO factory in Valladolid, gives all the answers. Every day, the Valladolid factory assembles 150 Daily and 170 cabins of its heavy range.
“The first thing to consider is functionality. The bodywork has to be designed for a mission, for a volume, for a specific load… When designing a truck, habitability becomes one of the central axes of its design. also plays a fundamental role the weight factor and aerodynamics, as they are two factors that directly affect the efficiency and consumption of the vehicle”, explains Agüera. And as customer demand has grown exponentially, since in addition to reliability, practicality or efficiency, “design has also become an important factor when buying a commercial vehicle”.
Once the design process has concluded, it is time to materialize what is drawn in the sketches. This is where the manufacturing process begins, a perfectly coordinated dance in which efficiency and attention to detail become the protagonists. How could it be otherwise, Agüera knows exactly what steps to follow: «A bodywork is like a box, so the first step is to make the different parts that make up the box: the floor on one side, the sides of the box by another, the back wall, etc.”.
Once all the elements that make up ‘the puzzle’ have been manufactured, we move on to the next stage of assembly: «The box is built inside a large machine. It goes into the floor on one side and on the other hand the different walls of that box are placed in it to carry out the most critical process: giving geometry to the box”. It is right at this moment where the synergy between the autonomous robots and the 240 workers that are part of the process must be perfect, and that is that the precision must be millimeter: “For the geometry of a body that measures more than 4 meters to be perfect, the robots must weld the box with a precision of tenths of a millimeter.”
This joining process is even more incredible when figures are given: 140 pieces and 2,400 weld points. These are necessary to form the body of an IVECO S-Way; The Daily is not far behind, and in this case, around 2,000 welding points are needed to join the 150 sheet metal elements that shape the body of the brand’s van.
Once the bodywork is completely assembled and has passed the quality and tolerance tests, it is time to begin the painting process, a job in which the more than 23 years of Agüera in the factory of Valladolid have served him to become a true teacher.
As explained by the person in charge of the Bodywork and Painting Units at the IVECO factory in Valladolid, “the first step is electrodeposition, where we are going to introduce the bodies into a certain number of tanks in order to carry out cataphoresis, a process where we apply a very fine film of microns of a paint whose objective is to cover the body and protect it from corrosion”.
Once the first stage of painting is complete and after being dried in large ovens, the second phase begins: “then a specific putty is applied whose main mission is to cover certain openings in the body to make it completely watertight. A special product will also be applied here to the underbody to protect it from gravel or stones that jump when we are driving as well as to eliminate noise. Once this is done, they are again introduced into a large oven to dry these components.”
The autonomous robots once again take on great importance in the third part of the process: “once the bodies are completely dry, the cleaning process begins using large robots that have rollers made of female emu feathers, the feather that is determined for this cleaning process.”
after this intense pre-painted treatment, it is time to apply the desired color. Agüera points out that “a finely pulverized electrostatic paint is applied to it, the layer of which is measured in microns. Once it is painted again, it is introduced into another large kiln for its final drying.
“From here, the last step to carry out is the final inspection and, in the case of the IVECO S-Way, the placement of the aesthetic stickers that it has on the sides, on the doors, the black stickers”, concludes the person in charge of the Body and Paint Units of the IVECO factory in Valladolid.
Technology and flexibility
Likewise, technology has not only managed to optimize some of the most complex jobs to the maximum, but for Luis Miguel Agüera it has provided many more advantages: “New technologies have been essential to improve aspects such as ergonomics, safety and, of course, the final quality of the product. It also allows you to know what is happening in real time, which allows you to do your job with greater precision and, most importantly, has also made manufacturing more energy efficient and therefore more environmentally friendly. ».
The arrival of new models is another of the great challenges that a vehicle factory must face. Almost four years have passed since the IVECO S-Way replaced the unmistakable IVECO Stralis, so the question was obvious… How do the manufacturing lines adapt to these changes?
As Agüera explains, “it is a process that requires hours of meetings and preparation work from the different departments of engineering, technology, logistics, quality, maintenance… To carry out the process with the minimum impact on productivity, we take advantage of the productive stoppages to adapt the lines and, once work resumes, they return to full production”.
The most amazing thing about this evolutionary path is its flexibility, and it is that there is the possibility that the old and the new model coexist on the same production line: «Normally, these changes are made gradually, that is, the modification is made at different stops on the line so that, from the first minute, you can start manufacturing one model but also the other. Later, we are turning off a model and giving impulse to the new model. This is the usual way of working in the factory.”
In order to reach the spectacular figures achieved by the IVECO factory in Valladolid, the manufacturing process must not only be precise, but must also be perfectly coordinated in order to be completed as quickly as possible. This is the only way to understand that only 16 hours are needed from when the first pieces of the bodywork begin to be assembled until it comes out completely ready and painted for subsequent assembly at the Madrid factory.
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