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This spring sees the first of the series-produced new Volvo FH trucks roll out of the factory gates for delivery to customers throughout Europe. But just how is an ultra-modern truck built? How do advanced electronics and other hardware turn into a single smoothly functioning entity and how can top quality be guaranteed? Join us on a trip from initial idea to finished truck
The new Volvo FH has more computers than an aircraft, offers all the connectivity of a mobile phone and is environmentally efficient, safe and comfortable. So how exactly is such an ultra-modern truck built?
It all starts with this roll of sheet steel. Every new truck model is just like a human being – unique – and requires product-specific tools.
In the cab plant, the sheet steel is shaped in 340 new presses. In one single year, they will produce seven million parts for the new Volvo FH. Each part is pressed in several stages as this improves the fit of the cab's various panels when they are put together.
This assembly process is carried out with the help of more than 300 robots. They move with silky-smooth precision throughout the factory, but behind each robot is an advanced computer program that tells it exactly what it has to do and when. That is the case, for instance, with this entirely new laser welder, which joins the outer panels in the door opening with the kind of perfection that is difficult to achieve using a conventional welder.
After just a few hours, the sheet steel has already been transformed into a cab. The next stop on the assembly line, in the 1 kilometre long plant is the paintshop, which, on the subject of ultra-modern, is one of the most environmentally optimised in the world. Here the cab is painted in an entirely automatic process. Today each cab requires about 4 litres of paint – that's , half the amount used just ten years ago.
On the assembly line the cab is fitted with its various components. Here too most of the onboard electronic components are installed. In total the cab will pass through 350 different pairs of hands before the entire interior is in place. The glass panels are bonded to the cab - a method that was introduced with the new Volvo FH – which improves safety as now the glass panels are contributing to the cab's overall strength.
It's not long before the cab is finished, only three days after starting out as a roll of sheet steel. The cab will now be transported to the chassis plant for completion. But first let's make a stopover at the engine plant.
Here truck engines are cast, machined and assembled. The mercury shows 25 degrees Celsius in the foundry and 1500 degrees in the smelting furnace.
Now that both the cab and the engine are ready, we'll continue to the chassis plant.
Here intensive work has been under way even before series production of the new Volvo FH started. In the pilot plant about 300 pre-series trucks have been built and together they have been driven a distance corresponding to several times round the Earth – all to ensure that they meet the very highest quality standards. Operators from all over the world, from Russia to Brazil, have also been here to learn how to build the new truck.
On the assembly line the chassis is now fitted upside-down since this is easier for the operators. Here the last electronic components are fitted. Just like an aircraft, there is one control unit for each function. This means that there are several computers that talk to each other several times every second, receiving and transmitting information about parameters such as speed and steering wheel position.
All-in-all it takes just over five days – and 2790 screws – to transform sheet steel and high-tech electronics into a state-of-the-art machine weighing about 8000 kg: the all-new Volvo FH.
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