In addition to the assembly lines, conveyor belts, and ultra-high-tech robots, some GM assembly plants also use several specialty processes to increase quality. One of these processes involves cleaning a vehicle’s body using female ostrich feathers prior to the final painting process in order to remove microscopic bits of dust that could negatively impact the vehicle’s paint quality, if not removed.
The pre-paint process works in a similar fashion to that of a car wash, only without any water. First, ostrich feathers are wrapped around six drums (or cylinders) – two on each side of the vehicle and two overhead.
Then, as the vehicle’s steel body approaches the cylinders, they roll over each portion of the vehicle to capture fine dust particles. This process takes place just prior to the final paint application.
GM says that it only uses female ostrich feathers because they are much softer than male feathers, preventing any scratching that could impact the paint quality and its application. Female feathers also happen to be longer-lasting than male feathers, while also being durable to prevent any scratching that could impact the paint quality and its application.
Each of the feathers has microscopic “fingers” that remove fine dust particles through the process of static electricity. As the cylinders spin and the feathers brush off any potential particles, a high-powered vacuum simultaneously does its part to remove any residue.
How much pressure and feather surface is applied depends on the model and vehicle area that is being cleaned. For instance, the feather surface space can vary from one to three inches. But the process doesn’t need there: after the vehicle completes the pre-paint feather process, paint specialists at GM assembly plants use flashlights to inspect for any spots that may have been missed.
No Birds Harmed
We should note that no birds were harmed in association with this process. Rather, the feathers used are shed naturally by ostriches. They are then collected and treated to take part in this process.
Thousands of feathers working together to ensure quality paint process for GM vehicles – there’s your dose of GM trivia for the week.