Automated surface processing at BMW Group Plant Regensburg – trio of digital paint shop processes


+++ BMW Group Plant Regensburg becomes first car plant
worldwide to use end-to-end digitalised, automated process for
inspection, processing and marking of painted vehicle surfaces

+++ New: AI-controlled robots process every vehicle
individually to meet objective quality standards +++

Regensburg. BMW Group Plant Regensburg has become the
automotive industry’s first plant worldwide to use an end-to-end
digitalised and automated process for inspection, processing and
marking of painted vehicle surfaces in standard production. In an
innovative new approach, AI-controlled robots process each vehicle
individually to meet objective quality standards. This ensures more
stable operations, shorter lead times and a consistently high level of
vehicle surface quality. Data stored in the cloud also enables optimal
analysis of causalities and therefore represents another step by the
BMW Group towards the digital and intelligent connected factory
referred to as BMW iFACTORY.

Painting, sanding, polishing – with artificial intelligence
(AI) for unique processes

The scene resembles a well-rehearsed play: Four robots stand in the
processing booth, surrounding a freshly painted body. As if on
command, the robots begin working on the surface of the body. They
sand it, apply the polishing compound, polish, change the attachments
and switch out the sandpaper. Cameras track the scenario. “What is
unique here is that the robots work on each body exactly where needed
– because the tiny specks and bumps that can appear after the topcoat
is applied and that we want to remove are in different spots on each
vehicle,” explains Stefan Auflitsch, head of Production Paint
Application and Finish at BMW Group Plant Regensburg. “Robots are
normally programmed to follow the same pattern until they are
reprogrammed. Using artificial intelligence allows them to work in a
more tailored manner. With up to 1,000 vehicles going through the
finishing process every working day, that adds up to 1,000 unique processes.”

Automated Surface Processing has been used in series
production at BMW Group Plant Regensburg since  March 2022. The plant
is the first car plant worldwide to use the AI-based process on this
scale. To ensure everything runs smoothly, this step is preceded by
another automated process that has been considered state of the art in
the automotive industry for some time: The Automated Surface
begins by identifying and recording the features
that require processing after the topcoat has been applied.

Black and white for greater transparency: from light strip to
digital profile

In the Automated Surface Inspection, the system first uses
deflectometry to identify deviating characteristics. While large
monitors project black and white striped patterns onto the vehicle’s
surface, cameras scan it and detect even the slightest variation in
the reflective paintwork through the change in the striped pattern.
Like a perfectly trained eye, the camera registers areas that deviate
from the ideal and transmits this data directly to the connected
computer system. The computer saves the exact position, shape and size
of the deviations, creates a digital 3D image from the data and
classifies it, based on objective criteria. In this way, all vehicle
surfaces are inspected for customer quality assurance purposes and
treated as needed. “The system already knows as much today as our best
employees combined. We used the knowledge of our entire team to
finalise the system; the functioning of the equipment relies on our
associates’ unique expertise. We channelled their experience into the
programming – on this basis, the algorithm now recognises and
objectively decides which features need post-processing,” explains
project manager Daniel Poggensee, a structural planner for Surface
Technology. From the data collected, the system creates a separate
profile for each body that then serves as the basis for custom surface
processing. This means no bump, no matter how small, can escape detection.

The new method offers even more advantages than just reliable
detection of characteristics and a shorter process lead time:
Automated Surface Processing not only processes all deviations
recorded in the optimal order, and with the appropriate speed, but
also with stability, repeatability and always with the same premium quality.

All data in the cloud – step by step to the connected factory

However, there are limits to the use of robots. For example, they
cannot process the edges of the body or the final millimetres next to
the door and other joints. The fuel filler flap is also too fragile.
For this reason, it is ultimately trained employees who add the
finishing touches and conduct the final inspection of the body. Here,
the previously recorded data with the characteristics once again
supports their work: A laser projector digitally marks the relevant
areas of the body surface to ensure nothing is overlooked.
Automated Surface Marking is therefore the final
step so far in the automated finishing process. However, according to
Poggensee, there are more ideas for the future: “On the one hand,
thanks to the data in the cloud, we expect to soon be able to
intervene in the process even earlier if there are any inconsistencies
– which will enable us to prevent faults from occurring in the first
place.” On the other, the equipment used should be able to
automatically record operations performed by employees – so they do
not have to go back and forth between the body and the computer for
documentation. In addition to saving time, this also reduces
complexity and increases the added value.

BMW Group Plant Regensburg is the first plant to use this three-stage
automated process in standard production. It is also  currently being
rolled out to other plants.

If you have any questions, please
Saskia Graser
BMW Group Corporate and
Governmental Affairs
Acting head of Communications Regensburg
and Wackersdorf
Cell phone: +49 151 6040 3232
Media website:


BMW Group Plants Regensburg and Wackersdorf

The BMW Group has viewed itself for decades as the benchmark for
production technology and operational excellence in vehicle
construction – including at its locations in Regensburg and
The BMW Group vehicle plant in Regensburg has stood
since 1986 and is one of more than 30 BMW Group production locations
worldwide. A total of up to 1,000 vehicles of the BMW 1 Series, BMW X1
and BMW X2 models come off the production line at Plant Regensburg
every workday – destined for customers all over the world. Different
types of drive trains are flexibly manufactured on a single production
line – from vehicles with internal combustion engines to plug-in
hybrids, to fully-electric models.
High-voltage batteries for the
electric models built in Regensburg are also produced locally, in
direct proximity to the vehicle plant. They are assembled at the
electric component production facility, which opened in 2021 at the
Leibnizstrasse location.
BMW Innovation Park Wackersdorf also
belongs to the Regensburg site. The 55-hectare campus built in the
1980s was originally intended as a nuclear reprocessing facility. The
BMW Group has located its cockpit production there, as well as its
parts supply for overseas plants. Alongside BMW, which is the largest
employer, other companies are also based at the Wackersdorf Innovation
Park. A total of around 2,500 employees work there.
The BMW Group
core staff at the Regensburg and Wackersdorf locations in eastern
Bavaria is made up of around 9,000 employees, including more than 300 apprentices.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here