An exclusive tour of the facility where the all-new 2017 Acura NSX is built.
Words and pictures by David Miller.
Honda's new Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC) in Marysville, Ohio is solely dedicated to the production of the 2017 Acura NSX hybrid supercar. And I am one of first media visitors ever to enter the 184,000-square-foot building.
The first NSX took the auto world by storm back in 1990 with the release of a supercar that displayed not only cutting-edge styling, but quality, performance and reliability. It was the first mass-produced car to have an all-aluminum body that was matched to a mid-mounted V-6 engine. Even though, the NSX was a popular vehicle, competition improved and it became comparably underpowered and expensive to make causing production to cease in 2005.
Once people can't get something, they tend to want it even more, it seems. After its discontinuation in 2005, that became the case for the NSX. Once Acura decided to start working on the second-generation NSX, they teased the public with images and concepts repeatedly at various auto shows. Now, we've finally reached the moment of truth with its arrival in dealerships in late April 2016.
The 2017 NSX is a two-door coupe that has enough angles and design-cuts to leave one breathless. This new second-generation version uses a longitudinally-positioned 3.5-litre V-6 engine with a pair of turbochargers and a trio of electric motors to produce a combined total of 573 horsepower and 476 lb-ft of torque. It's all matched to a nine-speed dual-clutch gearbox and uses Acura's Sport Hybrid Super Handling all-wheel-drive system, a first for any supercar.
The PMC is Honda's third manufacturing facility in Ohio and the only one that designs, develops and manufactures a supercar in North America. The centre employs 100 associates that work together without any lines or barriers between stations. It's all about quality, so the process for constructing one NSX is all done in-house and takes 14 hours of work for each model with an expected plan of building 8-10 units per day.
Throughout the PMC tour, we met many of its skilled professionals, most of whom showed a desire and passion for the car and called it 'an assignment of a lifetime.' Even more impressive was the longevity and service of each team member. This veteran group averages 24 years of service at Honda.
The PMC was built with a clean-sheet approach, similar to the all-new NSX itself. Clement D'Souza, Acura NSX Engineering Large Project Leader felt the NSX centre had to capture the essence of a small-volume manufacturing plant.
The environment is open and spotless and built from the inside out starting with quality confirmation in the middle.
The PMC has three goals that makes it unique compared to other automotive facilities. First, the NSX team wanted to create a new definition of the word 'craftsmanship' with no additional adjustments needed; secondly, they wanted to create a facility that reflects the supercar layout; and lastly, they wanted to achieve an '8 to 800' approach, which means its technology can be scaled from 8 to 800 units.
Almost everything that is done at the PMC involves both man and machine. This is evident in most of the stations visited on this tour and includes the 360-degree rotisserie-style welding, hemming of lightweight metallic materials, the rotisserie sealer application, and the painting process, to name a few.
The 360-degree rotisserie-style welding machine helps turn the entire car structure allowing optimal access for the robotic weld arms to work their magic. The space frame used is created with 100% robotic MIG welding, an industry first. The robots provide precise positioning of each of the 860 MIG welds along the space frame.
One of the most intense processes in the making of the NSX has to be the painting of the vehicle. We witnessed a world-class 11-point paint system that's cntained in a glass-enclosed paint room. The body structure gets tilted in order to get all of the air pockets out. It then goes through an eco-friendly inside and out paint job, followed by multiple paint overcoats, a rinse through recycled water and then passes into an oven to dry at 340-degrees for 50 minutes.
Acura is the first automotive company to use ablation casting for the NSX. This technology is utilized for the creation of six nodes within the NSX space frame. The new casting technology combines rapid solidification and traditional sand molding techniques that are later washed away with a water soluble binder. This process aids in creating rigid suspension and powertrain mounting points, as well as energy absorption for the vehicle's crash structure.
Centrally located at the PMC is the quality confirmation centre located in a glass-enclosed area. It's a total quality approach mindset that has technicians from all stations come in to inspect and monitor all aspects of the vehicle from the start of its build to its finish. This is where they can investigate the precision of the welding, the installation of each bolt, and the dimensional accuracy of the space frame, suspension, or body panels.
There are 28 data points monitored by the Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM). Its job is to measure data on the accuracy of its weld components, whether it's the floor, door, hood, or space frame – and it maintains accuracy to one-third of a hair breadth.
More exterior confirmations are provided by a Romer Absolute Arm. This system of checks guarantees the overall installation, as well as fit and finish to provide that precise craftsmanship.
Every bolt used on the 2017 Acura NSX is hand started into aluminum. It's then tightened precisely by a wireless torque wrench that can be accurate within 5% of each bolt used on the car. The entire process takes 62 minutes to complete, a system that simply would not be employed in a high-volume factory.
The Acura NSX's 3.5-litre V-6 engine is one of the few components assembled off campus. It's manufactured at Honda's Anna, Ohio engine plant with the use of four engine assembly stations. Each engine is hand assembled and custom balanced with its nine-speed dual-clutch transmission before being shipped to the PMC. Every engine is bench tested at various speeds and broken in with more than 240 kilometres of combined city and highway driving.
The PMC has 12 U.S. patents with six of them in the Dynamic Performance Confirmation area. One involves a sliding chair system that is patent pending. With this system, wkers don't have to bend or strain their backs by twisting into weird angles, as it allows them to safely slide underneath the NSX where they can concentrate solely on the task at hand in comfort.
Clement D'Souza, Acura NSX Engineering Large Project Leader believes so. “We needed the right technology to be comfortable with the NSX product and for that we needed to take our time. We teased our customers long enough and now we feel is the perfect time to release the NSX.”
The 2017 Acura NSX will begin serial production in late April with customer deliveries rolling out soon after.
That's our story on how the new Acura NSX is built. So now let's just enjoy some of the beautiful details on the finished product.
Function and form combined.
Even the door handles are works of art.
There's even beauty in an alignment check.
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