FRANKFURT -- Even the most beautifully sketched exterior remains just an idea on a piece of paper if, in the end, it can't be pressed into actual metal.
That's where the hard work of production engineers comes in. Their task is to give designers greater artistic leeway by finding technical solutions that guarantee quality while minimizing costs.
Audi exterior designer Matthias Fink thanked his engineers for allowing him to keep the Q2 crossover's distinctive polygonal shape and facetlike edges, including one surface where two crisp shoulder lines on the door panel of the vehicle merge, something that previously would not have been feasible.
"We're pushing the limits of what is physically possible in order to give our designers the freedom they need," said Hannes Mautz, Audi's project leader for intelligent tools. "But the more we test the boundaries, the more the production processes react to disturbances."
Already for certain parts of the A3 or TT, Audi relies on laser sensors to provide real-time information about the deformity of the metal during stamping -- all the way to the hundredths of a millimeter. Depending on the tolerance levels, the clamping force holding the sheet metal in place can be regulated by means of four separate electric actuators. This ensures it is neither drawn too quickly nor too slowly -- both of which present problems for the structural integrity.
"You can think of it like an electronic stability program for metal-forming technology," Mautz explained.