Matte- and satin-finish trim remains a hot trend in auto styling, and Audi now has a new way to offer buyers this stylish look. The patented technique etches symbols into the vehicle for an effect that initially looks like a decal but is actually part of the paint.
The etching process starts by putting a template over the desired area and then blasting a special powder onto the car. This clears away few thousandths of a millimeter from the transparent topcoat of lacquer. “Light hitting the surface is then reflected diffusely by the individualized surface areas. This makes it appear matt,” project manager Dr. Erhard Brandl said in the new option’s announcement. Since the pattern is in the paint, there’s no worry about the image falling off over time like a decal.
Audi’s current etching process can work in an area as large as 10.8 square feet (one square meter). However, Audi Exclusive clients can only order the customization for the side blades of the R8 Coupe and Spyder for now. The company demonstrates the option by putting the Audi Sport logo on the side of the supercar. Customers can specifiy any individual lettering and graphics that they’d like as long as the pattern "does not affect any third-party rights."
Other Audi buyers will be able to order the etching eventually, though. According to the company, the process is easy to incorporate into a vehicle’s production because the customization happens after painting the vehicle. The firm even suggests that it could offer the look into regular series production at some point.
If Audi keeps developing this tech, it could look amazing in larger applications. Imagine etching stripes over the hood. The company could also create art cars by letting artists come up with unique patterns for the body.
Gallery: Audi Paint Etching Option
Audi etches symbols into car paint
Patented process modifies surface sheen to create matt lettering and graphics
Audi Board of Management Member for Production Prof. Dr. Hubert Waltl: “A high degree of individualization with maximum efficiency and flexibility”
Available for the first time in the Audi exclusive program for the models Audi R8 Coupe and R8 Spyder
Audi has developed a process for the partial matting of painted surfaces. With this procedure the lettering "Audi Sport" was etched on the Audi R8.
Audi has developed a process for the partial matting of painted surfaces. A special powder roughens the clear lacquer on the surface to a depth of a few thousandths of a millimeter so that individual markings become visible. With this process, the Audi exclusive program offers personalized design of the side blades for all R8 customers.
The process developed by Audi experts makes each Audi unique. As the desired symbols are applied to components after being painted, the process can easily be integrated into normal series production. “The method of partial matting is an excellent example of the flexibility of our production. Being able to implement individualization in normal series production is one of the aims of our smart factory,” stated Prof. Dr. Hubert Waltl, Member of the Board of Management for Production at AUDI AG.
Painting an automobile consists of – in addition to the cathodic dip coating to protect against corrosion – at least three further coats: filler, base coat and the transparent lacquer as the top protective coat. With the newly developed process, a template of the desired pattern is first placed on the component. A blasting system then sprays a special powder onto the surface, which roughens the clear lacquer to a depth of just a few thousandths of a millimeter – less than a tenth of the thickness of a human hair. This creates the effect of a matt and homogeneous pattern.
“With this process, we modify the brilliance of the paintwork and the intensity of its sheen. Light hitting the surface is then reflected diffusely by the individualized surface areas. This makes it appear matt,” explained project manager Dr. Erhard Brandl. Production section head Mirko Endres added: “This form of individualization is weather resistant, unlike conventional lettering and stickers, and it has a much more high-quality appearance.”
The Audi paint shop can apply almost any pattern that a customer might desire and which does not affect any third-party rights. At present, components with a size up to a meter by a meter can be processed in this way. The super sports car Audi R8 is the first model for which this technology is offered through the Audi exclusive individualization program. If desired, R8 customers can have their individual lettering and graphics applied to the side blades of the Coupe and the open Spyder version. It is planned to extend the offer to other models in the future.