Ford Motor Company, a leader in the automotive industry, was remodeling its 2020 Ford Explorer SUV and one of the main decorative accents they were looking to refresh was their Class-A steering wheel badge. Since the Explorer is one of Ford’s flagship vehicles, Ford wanted the badge to be built to world-class standards, capturing both the visual craftsmanship and performance functionality of the design intent. Ford chose GMN Automotive (GMN) for its industry-leading craftsmanship, design execution, and functionality of the coatings.
Our latest video illustrates the many steps involved in the manufacturing of the steering wheel badge. The process begins with a coil of aluminum being cut into 24”x 20” sheets. The sheets are washed in an alkaline bath and dried to ensure that they are clean, thereby preventing any issues in the subsequent production steps. Next, the sheets are fed into a roll coater that deposits a primer coating. It not only promotes better ink adhesion but also helps protect the finished badge from any environmental challenges it will face on the steering wheel. The sheets are then baked in a flatbed oven to partially cure the basecoat. The aluminum sheets are sent from the oven to the screen printer, where the iconic Ford blue color is deposited onto them along with a corresponding small bullseye registration mark that is utilized during embossing and blanking at a later stage.
As seen in the video, the sheets are sent back to the roll coater where a topcoat is applied. This shields the primer coating and ink below, resulting in enhanced durability and depth of field for the logo. The fully decorated sheets are laminated with a protective film to minimize handling and tool-related issues. After lamination, the sheets are moved to fabrication where an optical registration system aligns with the printed bullseye mark to accurately emboss the Ford logo. The logo and the encircling racetrack are raised by .003”.
Next, the decorated and embossed sheets are blanked and formed to size and shape in a progressive tool. The machine utilizes the same registration mark employed in the embossing process to ensure extreme precision and uniformity. In the end, the badges undergo a rigorous visual inspection to guarantee that they are free of non-conformities before they are securely packaged and shipped out.
To see the entire production process of the Ford steering wheel badge from start to finish, watch our video below.