For the last year, the Bowling Green assembly plant has been undergoing renovations for the production of the new C7 Corvette model, closing it down for public tours. But according to GM News, the $131 million in upgrades the plant has received isn’t only to help produce the next Corvette generation, but rather produce a better quality product that is not only stronger than previous Corvette models but also more refined.
Of the $131 million spent to upgrade the Bowling Green plant, $52 million went towards the plant’s all new body shop, which manufactures the C7’s light-weight aluminum frame. The frame, which is 57 percent stiffer than frames of previous generations, is 99 pounds lighter and is the first to be produced completely in-house. The frame is also quite a bit more complex, featuring main rails comprised of five custom aluminum sections, a distinct center main rail section, and hollow-cast nodes at each suspension interface point.
Construction of the C7 Corvette is the first to use the GM-patented aluminum resistance spot-welding process which allows aluminum components to be spot welded to other aluminum components where two-sided joint access is available. Not only is this process of joining aluminum more cost-effective than other methods, it is also exceptionally effective even when welding together thicker components, such as on the frame. In total, there are 439 aluminum resistance spot welds on each new C7 coupe.
Another innovative technology helping make the new C7 stronger than ever is the use of Flowdrill fastening (watch the video here – it’s fascinating). This technology is used to fasten parts where only one side is accessible and welding could cause damage to certain components. Each fastener is installed using a high-speed drill which extrudes the car’s frame material to create a strong collar section, which gets tapped for screw-type fasteners. The new Stingray features 188 Flowdrill fasteners, giving the car added strength as well as eliminating the need for post-assembly machining due to maintained dimensional quality with the fasteners.
Laser welding is also used in the C7 manufacturing process. This innovative technology allows for sheet aluminum closeout panels to be attached to the Corvette’s tunnel structure in a quick and effective way. Laser welding also minimizes the heat beyond the weld area for better structural accuracy, as well as creating a leak-free seal along the frame. With three laser welding robots in the plant, each C7 Corvette receives 37 feet of laser weld bead during production.
When all is said and done, the C7 gets a final inspection for strength and integrity thanks to a 3D laser vision inspection, which scrutinizes every major assembly and critical point on each C7 for quality assurance. This inspection system can catch process variations across the board, allowing the issues to be addressed immediately, as well as verify overall assembly tolerances. With the laser vision inspection, assembly tolerances for the C7 are targeted to be 25 percent tighter than on previous Corvette models.
The Bowling Green Assembly Plant has seen plenty of upgrades since 1981, when it was designated the exclusive home of Corvette production. But with the latest upgrades and $131 million renovation just in time for C7 production, we’re sure this generation of Corvette will be the strongest and most refined of the whole model line.