BMW Group has introduced an innovative paint technology at its MINI plant in Oxford. Known as IPP (Integrated Paint Process), this highly efficient system is set to have a long-term impact on energy savings and emission reductions in the painting of body shells. It also wholly meets BMW Group’s high quality standards for surfaces. The introduction of IPP is a key factor in the expansion of Plant Oxford’s production capacity to a mid-term volume of up to 240,000 units.

Compared with previous technology, the Integral Paint Process completely eliminates the primer coat application and oven stage. The primer function is now transferred to one of two newly developed base coat layers. During this “wet on wet” application of the two layers, the first layer integrates all the functions and qualities of the primer-surfacer while the second base coat covers the optical attributes such as colour, effect and depth. A clear coat is applied on top of the base coat, as before. In this way the new IPP system achieves the same high standards as conventional paint processes in terms of optical and protective qualities.

As Gerhard Brückom, head of painted body shell technology at BMW Group, emphasises: “IPP technology has been subjected to extensive analysis and testing throughout its development. We know that it fully conforms to the high optical and functional quality standards of our products. Its long-term quality is guaranteed.”

As well as enhancing the efficiency of the entire paint process, this innovative process also supports BMW Group’s environmental objectives by dispensing with a solvent-based primer-surfacer. For Plant Oxford, IPP brings energy savings and a reduction in emissions in the paint shop of well over 10%.

“Thanks to the introduction of IPP, we can now reallocate the space and infrastructure previously taken up by primer coat application for the swift and efficient installation of an additional base coat line,” says Dr Anton Heiss, managing director, BMW Group Plant Oxford. “Disruption to production arising from the switch has thus been minimised to a few weeks. The new base coat line will also help to ramp up the plant’s production capacity in the mid-term to around 240,000 units.”

The introduction of the new technology and the installation of a second paint application line at the Oxford plant’s paint shop are part of an investment of over 100 million GBP into the MINI production site following the announcement by BMW Group in February last year. Since MINI began coming off the assembly lines in 2001, the plant has always run at a far higher capacity than originally anticipated; currently there is round-the-clock production on up to seven days a week. As Dr Anton Heiss points out, “It was the ideal time to update the paint shop and introduce IPP technology at the plant.”

Plant Oxford, the sole production site for the MINI, is the first facility within BMW Group’s manufacturing network to use the new paint system. The conversion of the entire colour range was completed in May 2006.

The introduction of IPP into other BMW Group production plants will be considered on a case-by-case basis as and when paint shops need replacing or refurbishing.

Source: BMW/MINI Press