New partial matting process allows greater individualisation of vehicles.
6 November, 2018
Audi has become the first vehicle manufacturer to offer its customers a special means of personalising their vehicles, with a new paint finish called partial matting. Using a fine beam of crushed glass, the top layer of paint is minutely roughened to create a matt image, allowing lettering, logos or photos to be displayed on the painted sheet metal with pixel accuracy and abrasion resistance.
Audi is the first automobile manufacturer to offer its customers this kind of individualisation and with the #2 special edition of the Audi Q2, the brand is now using this innovative painting process for the first time in volume production.
Partial matting was developed by a team in the Technology Development division at Audi’s
Ingolstadt site and has been patented by the brand. In the first step, an employee sticks a template made of thin plastic film onto the painted component – in this case a sideblade of the Audi Q2. A specially developed system sprays the component under vacuum – similar to sand blasting – with a fine powder of crushed glass. This removes a few thousandths of a millimetre from the top layer of clear lacquer and at the same time roughens it slightly. This difference in surface structure allows the motif to stand out clearly after the template is removed. The #2 special edition Q2, released in Germany* features a large pattern of crosses, and using this process, each painted surface in the interior or exterior of the car can be individualised in this way.
*#2 special edition Q2 is only available in Europe at time of writing.
"Audi has become the first vehicle manufacturer to offer its customers a special means of personalising their vehicles."
“With this process, we have gained a great advantage over our competitors,” says Dr. Erhard Brandl, Head of Sheet Metal/Painting Technology Development.
“With this process, we have gained a great advantage over our competitors,” says Dr. Erhard Brandl, Head of Sheet Metal/Painting Technology Development. With partial matting, every micrometer counts – the spray force must not be too high, otherwise the underlying layer of paint would be damaged.
“Now, for the first time, we have succeeded in combining this extreme precision with the robustness of volume production,” says Marco Karig, project manager at Audi Planung GmbH.
Audi has used partial matting in the past in vert limited numbers. In 2016, just 24 examples of the ‘selection 24h’ edition of the R8 V10 Coupe (pictured below) were released with ‘R8’ partially matted onto the sideblades as a tribute to the success of the R8 LMS race car.
At the time, the process was largely undertaken by hand, but since then, the five-man team has improved, automated and greatly accelerated the process. Matting a sideblade for the Audi Q2 now only takes about a minute, and the employees in the Ingolstadt paint shop can also easily process larger components. With the ‘TT 20 Years’ special model on the 20th anniversary of the TT series for example, the Audi rings on the side skirts are partially matted.
The employees using the newly installed equipment do not have to work according to the timing
dictated by the assembly line which allows them to work flexible hours to help meet the challenges of demographic change. The process has also developed significantly from an ecological point of view, with vacuum technology used to capture the fine abrasive matter to be reused.
This form of individualisation is currently available for the Audi R8 in the ‘Audi exclusive’ program, where customers have a choice of the motif to be matted.
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