automobile body at car plant

Sheet Metal and Body Shop Engineer

AEHQ Automotive Career Choices 1 Comment

Many of us have seen the movie Transformers where alien beings magically transform into vehicles of every make model and style.  Their metal bodies magically transform into every shape imaginable from small and compact cell phones to heavy duty trucks and fighter jets.  When they take on a more recognizable human like form, the components of their previous transformation like wheels, fender panels and headlights rearrange themselves into an oddly shaped body to communicate with humans on earth.  If only assembling a vehicle were as simple as these transformations!

Since we do not have the capabilities of these alien beings in our world, well at least outside of the movie theatre, we must design each individual component that produces the body of the vehicle.  This is where the sheet metal and body shop engineering role becomes critical.  These important engineers will take the incoming sheet metal and magically transform it into the metal components for the body of the vehicle.

Sheet metal production process

A few years ago the engineers at General Motors Stamping Plant in Grand Rapids Michigan put together a YouTube video of a sample production process for a sheet metal stamping operation.  The detailed and videotaped the entire process from the arrival of the raw materials and processing prep of the metal through stamping and then box and ship on train cars to travel to the production assembly lines.

The process follows these steps:

  1. Raw material arrival in large spools of steel
  2. Steel stored until needed for production
  3. Cutting operation
  4. Cut steel is banded and stored until next assembly
  5. Delivery to assembly process
  6. Stamping operation, various steps
  7. Packaged, boxed and shipped

This assembly process is coordinated and overseen by the Sheet Metal and Body Shop Engineer to ensure the end product is defect free and arrives at the final assembly location ready to be assembled into a new vehicle.

With all the detailed steps involved in this process an entire engineering specialty has developed to ensure that the raw materials and end product are defect free and meet all specifications.

Day in the life of a sheet metal and body shop engineer

The sheet metal and body shop engineer plays and integral role in the production of an automobile body.  They are incorporated in the design process right from the beginning and give critical input as to whether or not a part can be produced reliably without introducing any defects or latent issues that will show up later in the life of the automobile.  They will work as a part of the initial design team reviewing the specifications of a new automobile and looking at how those pieces can be produced.  When you are designing the body of a vehicle it is better to have one part with no seams or interfaces required.  When you must connect two parts then there is a chance to introduce manufacturing defects into the design and production so these are avoided when possible.

Becoming a sheet metal and body shop engineer

Like many of the roles within the automotive industry earning a job in this position requires a degree in an engineering related field.  Some sheet metal and body shop engineers will have a materials science degree which aids them in understanding the tensile strength and stress requirements that the materials they work with will face in the field.  To earn an engineering degree students will need to apply to a program within a university and have a strong background in math, sciences and physics to prepare them for the challenges they will face when earning their degree.

While we may never know if the future holds transforming vehicles, in the short term this means job security for the sheet metal and body shop engineer in the automotive industry.

Comments 1

  1. Annie Marks

    That is awesome that there are auto body shops available that will help you to customize the exterior of your car. I would agree that being able to select the features that you want to include in your car model is a great way to make your car everything you have ever wanted. I’ll have to share this post with my brother, he is very interested in adding new additions to his car. Thank you for sharing!

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