Sydney Automotive Paint and Equipment shows they are a company on the move, recently aligning with global car manufacturer, Audi who delivered a focussed training program to their repairer network. The event was held at the SAPE facility in Sydney and was attended by Audi Australia, Volkswagen Australia, SAPE, I-CAR Australia and representatives of the collision industry media.
Gareth Wright, Technical Support Specialist, Audi Australia kicked off the day with an overview of the luxury car market in recent years which showed that, following a ‘hiccup’ in 2017, Audi Australia is back on track and returns to their long-term growth projections.
Audi highlights that one of the challenges for collision repairers of luxury vehicles is the growing trend towards the use of ‘mixed materials’ used in body construction, as more and more steel parts are replaced with aluminium and carbon fibre reinforced polymers (CFRP). These materials are introduced for a variety of reasons, such as weight reduction, rigidity and ease of manufacture of complex parts. Interestingly, 59% of Audi’s current range has ‘mixed material on body’, a trend that is likely to continue.
Some of the challenges in repairing these materials is self-evident and clearly require a different way of doing things in the workshop and these are well-covered in the approved repair procedures. Audi’s own digital workshop manual, Elsa Pro (supported by self-study programs) ensures that all technicians have the latest information. What is less well understood, however, is the workplace health and safety implications of working with these materials. The key areas of focus at the training session were: the generation of fumes and dust, the impact that these have on personal health and the higher risks involved in the body shop. “To mitigate these risks, Audi is committed to ensuring our technicians and approved repairers use the right tools, for the right job, in the right way” said Wright.
The initial part of the presentation was focused on fumes, which are a combination of particulate matter (solids) and gases. Wright outlined that when grinding, cutting or welding aluminium body work and/or heating CRFP, the presence of coatings, primers, fillers, sealants and adhesives all generate fumes and when combined creates what Audi describes as a chemical cocktail that is virtually impossible to predict. Therefore, Audi has mandated the use of a W3 type extraction system and the use of an activated carbon filter, when required, to remove the particulates from the air flow.
Mixed-material dust extraction is another matter. The presence of aluminium dust and iron oxide dust (rust) in specific proportions, combined with a 400-degree heat source (say, a piece of weld) can create what is known as a thermite reaction. This is not a fire but an exothermic (heat-generating) chemical reaction that generates temperatures of more than 2,000 degrees and cannot be suppressed. To minimise these risks, Audi has now mandated the use of an approved dust extraction system with an attached spark arrestor, together with an isolated work bay with a pressure relief mechanism, such as a curtain.
“At Audi, workplace health and safety is our primary concern. We are committed to supporting our repairer network and our decisions to mandate specific equipment reflects this commitment,” said Wright.