In the fast-paced automotive industry, competition is hot and manufacturers work intensively to create more efficient, reliable vehicles. When the race is head to head, there is no room for failures. Finding ways to avoid failures and produce a more reliable vehicle, provides a competitive edge.
New technologies such as FIPG (formed in-place gaskets) which contribute to a more efficient, reliable system, can provide that needed edge. As a replacement of traditional gaskets such as cork and rubber, FIPG sealant is stronger and more reliable. An adhesive applied directly on the factory floor, FIPG increases efficiency and cuts down on waste. The adhesive also makes a stronger seal than traditional gaskets and can tolerate more wear so failure rates decline significantly. However, with this new technology, comes new specifications and assembly processes.
The integrity of FIPG relies on the surface cleanliness of the part prior to sealing. The part’s surface must be clean and clear of chemical contaminants to maintain a strong seal and avoid failures. In the past, cleanliness in the automotive industry only presented a concern with moving mechanics so grit and dirt were the primary threats. But, when applying FIPG, contaminants can be more than grit and dirt; various assembly liquids—mold releases, detergents, cutting fluids—exist in the manufacturing processes and can derail this imperative bond.
There exist several cleaning processes such as parts washers and solvent wipes to clean surfaces in the automotive industry, however, without a way to monitor and verify these cleaning processes, the level of surface cleanliness remains unknown.
An engine block manufacturer and supplier to one of the big three U.S. automotive manufacturers utilized a parts washer to prepare their engine blocks for sealing. While the manufacturer had the ability to manipulate variables in parts washers such as duration of wash and solvent type, they did not have a way to determine which variables produced the desired results. The only way to discover the success of the parts washer was by failures in the field. This method simply left too much up to chance and the manufacturer knew they needed a change.
The engine block manufacturers required a way to verify each step of their process prior to bonding to avoid failures in the field and to verify bond quality prior to application of FIPG.
BTG Labs’ fast, easy, accurate, quantitative surface cleanliness gauge the Surface Analyst dissected each step and variable in the washer process. The instrument took contact angle measurements on different engine blocks and after manipulating different variables in the washing process. Up to 12 areas across the same part were measured to examine cleanliness uniformity.
The integrity of FIPG relies on the surface cleanliness of the part prior to sealing. The part’s surface must be clean and clear of contaminants to maintain a strong seal and avoid failures. In the past, cleanliness in the automotive industry has been vague, undefined and subjective.
The Surface Analyst quantified the abilities of various parts washers and specific variables in each one. The manufacturer was able to see, on an objective scale, which washer provided the cleanest and most uniform surface and which settings on the variables worked best. With a way to verify and monitor the parts washers, the manufacturer gained the ability to optimize their wash process and gained confidence that their seals would hold.
The manufacturer used the instrument to build specifications to ensure consistency. This eliminated waste and more importantly, failures in the field. The engine block manufacturer developed (using the Surface Analyst) a process for their washing system that reduced scrap, reduced waste and delivered quality product to their customers.