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How technology will change collision repair procedures, materials and equipment

Friday, September 1, 2017 - 06:00
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What will the world look like in the future? Start by going back and watch some re-runs of The Jetsons. While the show first aired in 1962, George and Jane Jetson had technology all around them that seemed like it would at best be a dream of what the future may bring in 2062. But seriously, take a look at what has already happened.

Video Conferencing.

George used video conferencing to have meetings with Mr. Spacely. This technology is now used daily. Applications such as Facetime, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Join.me, and Go-To-Meeting are examples, with most being available at no cost.

Rosie

Remember Rosie? Rosie the maid not only talked and cleaned, but she also was a nanny to the kids. While I haven’t heard of a robot that can everything that Rosie can, today you can buy robotic vacuum cleaners that recharge themselves, can be programmed with a phone app and also have the ability to empty themselves. These are not yet real good at watching the kids!

Automatic Meals

The Jetson’s were able to push some buttons on a machine and were instantly served breakfast, lunch or dinner. Today you have the Coca-Cola Freestyle® which is a soda fountain that allows you to use more than a hundred different flavors to customize your drink. If you happen to be at Xavier University in Cincinnati you can get a pizza 24/7 using the Pizza ATM, which is America's first pizza vending machine.

Flying Cars.

Yes George went to work in a flying car. But this may not be as far off as you may think. Take a look at Terrafugia’s Transition® (www.terrafugia.com) which was first flown in 2009. The Transition® according to their web site “It is a folding-wing, two-seat, roadable aircraft designed to fly like a typical Light Sport Aircraft category airplane in the air and drive like a typical car on the ground. It runs on premium unleaded automotive gasoline, fits in a standard-construction single-car garage, and converts between flight and drive modes in under a minute. The Transition® will also incorporate autonomous flight technology which will further simplify flight operation and increase both safety and convenience.

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Several technologies that were envisioned in The Jetsons in the 1960s have come true in varying degrees. If you were to create your own The Jetsons today, what technologies would you include, focusing on vehicles and the collision industry?

Vehicle technology
Much of the advancements in vehicle technology have been made due to changes in corporate average fuel economy (CAFÉ) requirements or to meet or exceed federal crash test requirements or to obtain higher consumer crash test ratings.

To improve occupant safety and collision avoidance we are continuously seeing advancements or introductions of systems such as:

  • Restraint systems
  • Automatic braking
  • Stability control
  • Parking assist
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Blind Spot detection
  • Lane departure
  • 360 degree cameras

With these electronically controlled systems, the collision industry must have the knowledge of system operation, the proper tools and equipment, skills, and access to OEM information. Recently the industry has also uncovered the need to perform pre- and post-repair scans as well as many recalibrations following a collision. As software and “creature or comfort features” continue to include more connectivity to allow for applications such as home integration and vehicle-to-vehicle communication.

Construction materials and repairability

As vehicle manufacturers have worked towards meeting the CAFÉ fuel economy requirements while at the same time improving occupant safety, Vehicle construction methods and materials have also been rapidly changing. Today, we must be able to create a repair plan and repair a variety of steels, aluminum, carbon fiber, magnesium, plastics, and other materials.

To make the proper repair plan and ultimately a proper repair, you must first identify the material that you are working with and determine what can be done to it during the repair process. In some cases, such as a bumper cover, you may not be able to perform a repair due to the electronics that are behind the cover.

Figure 1 - 2017 Chevrolet Bolt left upper and lower rails are assembled using laser welds, resistance spot welds, MIG fillet welds, silicon bronze welds and an adhesive.

Figure 1 is from a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt. When you look at this area you can see that having access to the OEM construction material diagram and the repair procedures are going to be critical in proper repair planning and repairs. In the area shown there are resistance spot welds, MIG fillet welds, silicon bronze welds and an adhesive. In this area (figure 2) the labeling of the materials make it easy to determine the types of steels used. The PHS is press-hardened steel and is approximately 1,300 MPA. Identification of the materials becomes quite a bit more difficult when the vehicle is primed and painted.

Figure 2 – 2017 Chevrolet Bolt right lower rail, cowl, and strut tower. The dark gray steel is press-hardened steel (PHS).
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