Acura has revealed that it will start the serial production of the Acura NSX supercar. It is expected to start sometime in late April and will be done at the company’s Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC). Customer deliveries are expected to begin after. The PMC is designed to be a state-of-the-art mix of technology and people. By being able to blend technological innovation and human craftsmanship, PMC is able to use a new method when it comes to constructing the vehicle, assembly, paint, and quality assurance.
The goal is to make sure that the company is able to give customers its DNA of Precision Crafted Performance. In addition, the PMC will also be exclusively manufacturing the NSX supercar. Similar to the NSX, the supercar will be manufactured in the PMC in-house. It will follow what is known as clean-sheet development. What this means is that the facility was designed based on the distinct Multi-Material Body of the NSX as well as its aluminum-intensive space-frame design.
PMC has also been optimized in order to meet the low-volume production of the high-performance specialty vehicles. The engineering large project leader of the PMC is Clement D’ Souza, who was also tasked to oversee the creation of this facility. According to Mr. D’ Souza, all the hard work and innovative thinking that went to the construction of this hi-tech facility have allowed the company to meet its goal of making a supercar in the U.S.
Due to the challenging spirit and the extraordinary passion enjoyed by its highly skilled associates, Mr. D’ Souza continued, the company was not only able to develop and erect from the ground a supercar factory, but it also did the same with the Acura NSX supercar. The PMC was designed to do two things. The first is to improve the method in manufacturing low-volume specialty cars. The second is to explore possible new ideas for the next-generation Acura especially when it comes to quality and craftsmanship.
As a result of the work done by PMC associates with regards to the manufacturing process of the NSX, the company was able to apply for a total of 12 U.S. patents. An estimated 100 associates not only support but also directly work in constructing the body, painting the body, the final assembly, and even ensure the quality assurance. These associates work with advanced robotics to ensure that the NSX meets the highest levels of craftsmanship and quality.
Meanwhile, the NSX’s bespoke 75-degree turbocharged twin V-6 engine will be manufactured at its engine plant in Anna, Ohio, and done by a rather small group composed of master engine builders. Though trial production has started, serial production of the supercar will begin in April. The company will be disclosing added details of its groundbreaking manufacturing processes at both the PMC and its Anna Engine Plant. One of the processes involves the precision robotic weld technology.
Here, the space frame of the NSX, which is made of aluminum, will be constructed with the use of advanced joining technologies. Meanwhile the multi-material space frame is manufactured by utilizing 100% robotic MIG wielding, considered as a first in the auto industry. What happens is that 8 weld robots use 860 MIG welds to the space frame. The result is not just an extremely accurate body but also lead to precise and repeatable welds.
In order to make sure that the robotic weld arms get optimal access, the body is turned during the process. To ensure precision, the facility makes use of 360-degree-rotating rotisserie-style body fixtures. To make sure that quality in-line is maintained, highly skilled weld technicians take exact measurements and inspect visually each of the parts at the different stages of the welding process. The purpose of this is to confirm that the space frame is precise, has quality, and has the needed dimensional accuracy.
This is important as it is needed for the vehicle’s dynamic performance as well as the precise fitment of the body panels, suspension, powertrain, and other parts during assembly. Then there is the all-glass quality confirmation center. The company practices a total quality approach and this is clear in the production. This is demonstrated by the attitude of each of the PMC technicians and by how the facility was designed.
The facility has a glass-enclosed quality confirmation center in the middle of the facility. As a result, regardless of which department they belong to, the technicians are able to monitor the different parts of the vehicle as it goes through the whole production process. One thing PMC is proud of is that the engine is built by hand. The NSX is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 engine with the dry sump lubrication. The entire engine is assembled at the Anna Engine Plant by hand through the master builders. Each of the components is assembled by hand with every 547 of the bolts hand started and even manually tightened to meet precise torque tolerances.
In addition, not only is each of the NSX engine balanced, but it is also bench tested. It is even broken-in to equal 150 miles of service. This guarantees that each NSX engine that comes out of production is track-ready once it is delivered to the customer. To make sure that the performance standards and the highest possible quality is achieved; the build process of the engine continues to be benchmarked versus the race engineering programs of the company. Overall, it takes more than six hours to assemble one engine. The NSX supercar will also be the first time that Ablation casting is used as an automotive application.
This technology was developed by Alotech, Ltd., and is the first use of such technology in the auto industry. This involves making six nodes on the space frame of the NSX and will serve as both the mounting points of the powertrain and a rigid suspension. It will also serve as significant parts of the crash structure of the vehicle. The ablation cast nodes are made at its Anna, Ohio engine plant, that same facility where the V-6 engine is assembled.
For its exterior finish, the one in the NSX supercar is clearly world-class. In addition to the rather extensive substrate preparation and the polishing, a maximum 11 primer and paint coats were used. As such, PMC manages to get a high-quality paint finish that is unrivaled in its segment. Before applying the corrosion-resistant primer, an etching process that uses a zirconium-based material is used on the aluminum space frame of the NSX.
The use of zirconium serves two purposes. The first is that it ensures world-class quality while the second results in lower environmental waste during the painting process. Finally, there is the rotisserie-style sealer application. The facility makes use of two rotisseries during the body sealing application process. This process is where the space frame is first loaded on the fixture, then elevated, and finally rotated 360 degrees.
By having two rotisseries, this there’s a more precise application of the sealer and improved ergonomics for the technicians. This rotisserie is also the first of its kind to be used in the industry since it enables a one-sided attachment of the vehicle’s frame. This makes the loading and unloading much more efficient. The patent on this rotisserie’s design is still pending.