For the past decade, a slow change has manifested itself in modern vehicular manufacturing. (The future is knocking, GM) In a desire to simplify and cheapen the production of automobiles, manufacturers are turning to the adhesive and metallurgy industries to find new ways bonding frames and bodies on airplanes, trucks, cars, and even motorcycles.

Gone are the days of nuts, bolts, screws and modular vehicle manufacturing. (18 hours ago, the Wall Street Journal wrote a really nice piece on the role of industrial-grade adhesives in the automobile industry.

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Pressed by the EPA and new economically-global emissions and safety standards, American manufacturers are trying to make their products more appealing by making them not only cheaper, but reducing the number of parts and footprint that a car leaves in its ultimate demise. Finally, a drive to use aluminum, a metal extremely hard to weld without damaging, has sparked a new interested in chemical bonding.

What has this done in the economy? R&D specialists have benefited from this immensely.

The global market for structural adhesives used in cars, airplanes and other vehicles should hit $2 billion this year, up from $1.5 billion a decade ago, estimates IHS senior consultant Eric Linak. He said the market is growing at between 4% and 5% a year, up from between 2% and 3% a few years ago.

The Advantages of Automobile Adhesives:

The fuselage is produced by wrapping a mold with tape "impregnated" with epoxy, and baked under pressure to bond materials. Each of the air frame's five sections uses between 40,000 and 50,000 fewer metal fasteners than conventional airliners, Boeing said. With little banging of metal, a Wichita, Kan., factory where the front section of Dreamliners are made is nearly as quiet as a library. -wsj

Vehicles that have less bolts, nuts, and traditional fasteners are physically lighter than vehicles that do. Thus, depending on the vehicle, they have the potential to burn less fuel in the long run. Extreme chemical bonding also essentially creates large physical units and eliminates friction, and thus, noise, and cabin noise. This makes cars quieter. Bolts, nuts, and screws come from somewhere, and although its doubtful their industry will be hurt by lack of automotive integration, the ghost of their outmoding looms 'round the corner. Does this necessarily make a vehicle more structurally secure, or is it hype? All cars built are expected to confirm to safety and manufacturing standards, but it hasn't been conclusively proved that glued cars can take a harder beating than say, a Volvo wagon.

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R&D also paves a way for new industry surrounding vehicular adhesives, especially those that can un-applyed and re-applyed while meeting or exceeding traditional standards set by lead car-makers using welding, nuts and bolts.

The Disadvantages of Automobile Adhesives:

Risk in high-heat.

Engines get hot. Cars get hot. Few industrial glues or rubbers can handle can handle continued high heats and then lack of heat. Cracking and loss of structural integrity can occur.

Complications in body work and service.

Generations of current and past mechanics and gear heads are have grown up and trained in a world of bolts, nuts, and rivets. And the concept of gluing things is silly, especially when it comes to service and repair. What does one do after taking a glued car apart? Glue it back together. Most mechanics aren't trained to handle chemically complex and volatile adhesive, neither in application or removal. When it comes to engines, the core of the automotive industry steers away from the thought of gluing an engine block together. The technology is too new, and engines are taken apart far too often. What happens when a car needs to be recycled or dismantled? How is the glue removed? Some companies have suggested using magnetic adhesives using nanotechnology that can be undone "at the press of a button."

How does this protect consumer authority? This opens up a window to potential aggressors dissembling a moving or static vehicle without consent for malicious purposes. Wouldn't you be afraid of a magnetic beam capable of tearing apart your vehicle (although technically a ballistic missile will do the same.)

"One of the biggest challenges in the chemical industry is to manufacture an adhesive bonding that can be undone. This is because whereas car bodies made from welded steel can be easily melted down, vehicles manufactured from a mix of adhesive-bonded materials remain a problem today from the recycling point of view. What is needed is an adhesive that will lose its adhesive properties on command, as it were." -azonano

Welders will have to find new work.

The concept of automotive glue is a creative destruction of automotive welding. And as such, it is dangerous economically.

What does this all mean?

This means that globalization and capitalism are changing and industry to something probably unthinkable by its founders. Is it progress or a cheapening of an both an industrial art and a stalwart tool of modern life?

Looking forward to your comments.

Also check out:

Chicago Tribune

Reuters