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How Are Cars Built? 5 Steps in the Car Manufacturing Process

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Filed under Automotive, Editorial

Millions of cars are manufactured worldwide each year, and production processes have evolved significantly in order to improve efficiency, drive down costs and accommodate increased demand.

There are a few key steps to complete to bring a car from the drawing board to the showroom, so let’s look at the main points along the auto manufacturing journey.

Constructing the Automobile Frame, e.g. Using a CNC Machine

The frame is the thing that underpins every vehicle, and upon which all of the other components are positioned.

A combination of techniques and pieces of equipment are used to construct the frame, with CNC gear allowing for a lot of automation throughout. And because this industry is so vast, there are plenty of used CNC machines for sale which were initially part of mainstream automotive production lines, but are subsequently sold on to smaller operations, creating an affordable entry point for startups.

Stamping Body Panels & Exterior Elements

Sheet metal is used for the construction of most exterior aspects of a typical car, with things like door panels, wings, trunks and hoods being stamped from this material.

Steel is often preferred for more affordable vehicles, offering cost-effectiveness and durability. Sportier models may use aluminum in its place, because it is lighter.

Range-topping performance vehicles will make the switch from sheet metal to carbon fiber, which is incredibly tough as well as very light weight. However, because it is trickier to manufacture, it is also much more expensive.

Welding Components Together

With the frame and the body panels prepared, the job of welding them together can commence. 

As you’d expect, much of this work is completed almost entirely via automation, with robotic arms positioning parts in the right place and completing the welds needed far faster than any human could hope to achieve.

Obviously welding is required in the case of sheet metal being used, but if body panels made of materials like carbon fiber are preferred for a given model, then a more methodical and hands-on approach to this step in the manufacturing process is needed.

Painting

One the frame is married to the body panels, the skeleton and skin of a car are unified, and it’s time to think about applying the paint.

Modern methods involve applying three or more layers of paint, which not only makes the vehicle look its best, but also protects the underlying materials from wear and tear caused by the elements.

Some manufacturers will apply paint protection film on top of this prior to delivering to the customer, although this is usually an optional extra and again only makes sense for the most expensive autos on the modern market.

Assembly

The final part of the car manufacturing process is what’s known as assembly. This is where the basic underpinnings of the vehicle that we’ve described so far will be married to the various other components and accessories, many of which will either have been produced off-site, or in a separate part of the manufacturing facility.

The engine will be installed, alongside the wiring looms, the lights, the dash and displays, the door cards, seats and so on.

While lots of assembly lines are automated to a degree, a lot of the work at this point still requires the involvement of human operators.

All of this will be capped off with a rigorous series of tests and inspections to ensure that the ideal quality is achieved and that various regulations and standards are met. After this, it’s time for the vehicle to be shipped out, whether to dealerships or direct to customers!

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