General Motors is applying a new painting process to the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, using a water-based “three-wet” paint process and a single trip through the oven. The painting method reduces the paint shop footprint by 10 percent, and reduces manufacturing costs by roughly $40 per vehicle, GM says.
When full shift production is achieved, the new paint shop at GM’s Orion Assembly Center, in Lake Orion, Mich., will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 80,000 metric tons per year – equivalent to the annual emissions from 14,000 vehicles – and solvent emissions by about 108,000 pounds of solvent per year, the company says. This process reduces the paint shop footprint by 10 percent, providing additional floor space and reducing the energy needed to heat and cool these areas.
GM says it is the first automaker in the United States to use the “three-wet” process, which is quickly becoming the global standard.
Its Orion Assembly Center is equipped to allow three layers of paint to be applied one after another while still wet. This eliminates the need for a round in the bake oven that normally occurred between the primer and color-coating layers.
Orion’s new paint shop was built to minimize energy use while reducing solvent emissions. By using the three-wet process, a thin film pretreatment, and lean design methods, Orion’s paint shop uses 50 percent less process energy per vehicle than the shop it replaced. It is also heated by natural and landfill gas, which results in fewer emissions than coal-fired boilers.
In the past year, General Motors has invested $145 million at Orion to host production of Sonic, its new sub-compact car for the American market.