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New materials, manufacturing techniques make training more important than ever

Friday, November 16, 2012 - 14:18
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Trends in automotive engineering are changing how vehicles are repaired. The collision repair business must keep up with evolving engineering developments and understand them in order to repair vehicles properly.

Proper training for technicians is crucial to the success of body shops. Automotive engineering is evolving faster than ever and repair shops need to keep up with advancements.

Many suppliers of automotive repair products offer in-shop instruction on proper repair procedures. (Image / LORD Corp.)

One of the biggest problems in the industry today is that many body shops are not staying up-to-date with repair trends. Some technicians learned how to do repairs a certain way and are reluctant to learn new methods. Not learning new methods can have devastating effects if cars are not repaired properly – both to the repair shop's business and the safety of the passengers in the vehicle. While training takes time, money and effort, several options are available to help a well-run body shop business keep current with repair techniques.

Changing engineering trends

Several engineering trends are important to consider when discussing the need for training. These trends include the increased addition of safety features in cars, the use of high-tech steels, new welding and bonding techniques, and repair products.

In the past several years, car manufacturers have been adding more and more passenger safety features to vehicles – air bag systems, side airbags and curtains. Some cars have a feature known as a "city safety" system that prevents the car from hitting a vehicle in front of it – even if the driver is not paying attention. Sensors are involved on these safety components, and when a car is in a collision, these sensors must react within a fraction of a second to activate airbags and other protection devices.

Beyond the engineering of the car, there are changes in manufacturing materials that have come into use since the early 2000s. Advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) are much stronger, but more lightweight, than the steel used in cars from the '50s to the '90s. According to a report released in May 2012 by the Automotive Council of the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), these new AHSS help improve safety, emissions and durability while keeping costs down. The AHSS offer complex steel chemistries and thermomechanical properties for improved strength and ductility.

Along with the use of AHSS is the increased use of structural adhesives in car engineering and manufacturing. Adhesives are being used for structural integrity, for corrosion protection, as sealers, and for noise vibration harshness (NV&H) control. It's not just that adhesives are being used differently and for different functions, they are now being used in place of welding for some bonding needs.

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