Vol. 12
November Issue
Year 2011

Good Vibrations

in Vol. 12 - November Issue - Year 2011
IAA 2011 Frankfurt – Perfect Surfaces Are Gaining In Significance

High-end details super-finished

Gear wheels with better running characteristics

Camshaft surface improvement

Perfect surfaces for perfect cars

At the IAA in Frankfurt, the most important and most renowned automobile show in the world, it became apparent that in addition to contemporary ecological engines and lightweight construction technologies, surface technology plays an important role. In all areas of automotive manufacture, the demands placed on the decorative and functional aspects of surfaces are increasing.

The main topics are the reduction of frictional resistance and improvement of running properties on the one hand, and look and feel on the other. In all areas of automotive manufacture, surfaces need to be functional, but also perfect in all other regards.

Over the past few years, manufacturers, traders and end customers have been paying closer attention to "perfect and high-quality surfaces" and are certainly able to distinguish between high quality and cheap surface performance.

The difference can be highlighted using the example of jewellery manufacture: cheap costume jewellery is made from a simple base material and a low-cost finish. As a rule, its surface has a short lifespan. High quality jewellery is made from better quality base material and its surface is finished in a much more elaborate way. There is usually no coating, or if there is, it is of a high quality. The same applies to all products that are made from metal, plastic, wood and stone.

It therefore makes sense that surface technology is of great importance in the automotive industry. Customers pay attention to surface performance of interior and exterior parts because the overall impression of a vehicle is strongly and lastingly influenced by the look and feel of its surfaces.

At the IAA, quality-conscious customers examined and assessed surfaces very critically. As a result, many manufacturers now rethink their strategy and define new goals. This often means that more time, money and attention goes into the development and introduction of improved surfaces.

European car manufacturers, in order to set clear signals, are increasingly less likely to compromise when it comes to surfaces. The risk of upsetting quality-conscious customers is too great. Manufacturers prefer their engine and drive components as well as all design elements to be made from high-quality base materials and to have a perfect finish.

This is why companies increasingly look for service providers who are able to supply the right level of quality that is suitable for series production, namely reliability and reproducibility. Developers and surface specialists have understood this and are putting it into practice. Perfect performance is needed not just for the exhibition vehicles; the same quality must be maintained in serial production. An increasing number of surface technology suppliers are upgrading their production equipment and processes in order to meet the rising demands and the expectations associated with "quality made in Europe".

Innovative grinding, polishing and shot blasting technology, PVD / plasma coating technology, electroplating and painting technology are the main areas involved. Companies working in these fields are currently experiencing a wave of research and innovation efforts. Many privately and state funded research projects and quality initiatives are designed to create a foundation for the future.

It is fortunate that the trend towards quality also has a positive effect on sustainability. High quality surfaces are significantly more robust, hard wearing, and therefore more durable, and look great even years later.

Let us be confident about the future and look forward to creating outstanding and beautiful surfaces in the coming decades!

Good Vibrations
by Dirk Gather
Contributing Editor MFN and General Manager of GZO GmbH, Germany

Author: Dirk Gather
Tel. +49.3301.5232.0 
Fax +49.3301.5232.29