Bernhard Maier, ŠKODA AUTO CEO, said, “By opening the new paint shop, we are making our main plant in Mladá Boleslav stronger for the long term. It is a key component of our growth trajectory that we are rigorously continuing as part of our 2025 Strategy. This allows us to increase our capacity and therefore meet the high customer demand much more effectively. At the same time, we have created more than 650 new jobs at ŠKODA’s headquarters, making a considerable contribution towards strengthening the Czech Republic as an automotive hub.”
ŠKODA Board Member for Production and Logistics, Michael Oeljeklaus, added, “With the opening of the new paint shop, one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in Europe is commencing operation. It allows us to markedly increase production capacity at our main plant in Mladá Boleslav. Up to 168,000 car bodies will be coated with paint here each year, taking the plant’s total annual painting capacity up to 812,000 vehicles. Numerous production steps are undertaken or assisted by a total of 66 robots. The use of innovative technologies makes the ŠKODA employees’ workstations particularly ergonomic.”
The state-of-the-art painting technologies include a fully autonomous system for transporting the individual bodies during pretreatment and primer application. This conveyor system enables the process parameters for each car to be selected individually. In traditional painting lines, such customisation is not possible because the bodies are transported using chain conveyors.
All of the data from the production process is electronically matched with the identity of the relevant car and transmitted via radio to the individual workstations, allowing the appropriate materials to be used.
With regards to the choice of technical equipment, ŠKODA AUTO placed particular importance on low energy consumption. One example is the new paint shop’s unique drying technology: to offset the differences in temperature between solid, high-strength body components and light sheets of metal when baking the various paint layers, central recuperators blow hot air into certain areas. This way, ŠKODA reduces the amount of energy used to dry the layers of paint by up to 20 per cent.
An innovative wet brush system for cleaning the car bodies enables the sealant and primer to be baked at the same time – which means the facility can forego an entire drying step and therefore does not have to heat and cool the bodywork.
The painting robots boast an innovative seventh rotational axis in their cantilever arm, meaning one robot can coat car bodies with a total surface area of up to 108 m2. To put this in perspective: the average surface area of present-day passenger cars is 88 m2.
New paint shop sets benchmarks for environmental sustainability
Just like in the already established ŠKODA AUTO paint shops, the new facility only uses water-based coatings, with the exception of the final clear coat. However, in the new paint shop, 55 per cent of this topcoat is made up of solid matter. Thanks to this composition, each car requires approximately 210 g less solvent and the amount of clear coat required is reduced by 17 per cent to 2 kg per car.
In total, the five coats of paint applied to a ŠKODA result in a layer that is around 0.1 mm thick. The paint shop can produce a total of 17 different tones, many of which have a metallic or pearlescent finish.
The new technologies also provide an essential contribution to the shop’s eco-friendliness. Paint residues such as pigment particles are absorbed in a process known as dry separation. In this procedure, ground limestone replaces the water which was used until now. As a result, no paint sludge accumulates as a waste product. The exhaust air decontamination system using ground limestone reduces the amount of paint residue created per car body by more than 2 kg. The used ground limestone and the paint absorbed by it are then thermally recycled and used in the desulphurisation of flue gases emitted at the heating plant run by ŠKODA’s subsidiary Ško-Energo. By using this technology, ŠKODA recycles up to 80 per cent of the air used in the spray booths, which substantially reduces the amount of energy used in purifying the intake air.
Furthermore, the new paint shop features a system that thermally disposes of all emissions. This allows ŠKODA AUTO to reduce its production-related emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) created during the painting process by 36 per cent.
At 35 m high and featuring seven storeys, the new paint shop is now the tallest building at ŠKODA AUTO’s main plant in Mladá Boleslav. Measuring 276 m in length and ranging between 60 and
140 m in width, the building covers 25,094 m2 – the equivalent of three football fields. At 828,058 m3, the volume of the building corresponds to that of 265 Olympic swimming pools.
The Czech car manufacturer groups its environmental activities under the umbrella of its GreenFuture strategy. Investments such as the eco-friendly paint shop fall under GreenFactory and form an important pillar of the brand’s sustainability strategy. In ŠKODA AUTO’s recently published sustainability report, the company revealed that it was able to reduce the environmental impact of its vehicle production by 56.1 per cent between 2010 and 2018.