published Thursday, January 28th, 2010

VW paint shop to be world's most advanced, officials say

Volkswagen's paint shop at its Chattanooga auto assembly plant, expected to start testing its first cars in late August, will be the most advanced in the automotive world, officials said Wednesday.

"In terms of technology, we're the best paint shop," said Lothar Grensemann, general manager of the facility deemed as the most complex structure at the factory which will start making autos for sale in the first part of 2011.

A vehicle conveyor system along with "green" technology that produces almost zero waste when changing paint colors are among the key parts of the massive facility, officials said.

"We're trying to build the most eco-friendly process in the world," said Don Jackson, president of manufacturing for VW's Chattanooga operations. "With the new system, you can change very quickly."

He said the paint shop was built on three levels to save space and make use of heat which rises inside the building.

Thomas Hilbinger of equipment provider Eisenmann said the conveyor system process that carries vehicles through the paint shop is the first of its kind.

  • photo
    Staff photo by Patrick Smith/Chattanooga Times Free Press Construction workers assemble beams inside Volkswagen's paint shop facility on Wednesday. VW officials stressed that the plant construction was on schedule.

The plant's paint shop will have 56 robots on the job.

"Almost every step is done by robots," Mr. Grensemann said..

He said the plant will have three drying ovens. The largest will be over 425 feet long, the VW official said. Heating will reach about 320 degrees, and it will take one vehicle about 39 minutes to make the trip through the oven via the conveyor system, Mr. Grensemann said.

Quality is a main focus, he said. Mr. Grensemann said the shop will house automated paint-checking equipment, and its data then will be double-checked by VW workers.

VW'S PAINT SHOP

* Construction concrete -- enough used to fill seven Olympic-size swimming pools

* Precast columns -- enough to fill nine 747 jets

* Structural steel -- enough to produce 2,970 VW Beetles

* Siding -- equivalent of five NFL football fields

* Roofing -- equivalent of seven NFL fields

Source: Volkswagen

About a third of the equipment for the paint shop has been installed so far, he said.

"The quality of the equipment is the best I've seen," Mr. Grensemann said.

Officials said the shop's construction is on schedule.

Matt Hines of Manhattan Construction said the fit-out work in the shop is challenging but going well.

"The paint shop is ahead of other buildings," he said.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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