If you’ve ever seen a red car from the 1990s that spent its life outside in the Southwest, you know that the sun’s rays can ravage automotive paint. To help avoid that fate, automakers put lots of time and effort into making sure that paint, as well as plastic and interior trim pieces, can endure UV rays for as long as possible. For Nissan, that testing involves a mega-powerful light that looks like a sort of futuristic satellite. Think of it like a tanning bed, but for all the parts that go into your new car.
Nissan employs the Xenon Weather-Ometer at its technical center in Farmington Hills, Michigan. It consists of a 4,000-watt xenon light bulb designed to emit the same wavelengths of light as the sun, but in a controllable environment that shines 24 hours a day — no interruptions for cloudy days or at night. That means the XWO halves the time that is needed for a test; if Nissan wanted to test paint under real sunlight for a year, for instance, the XWO could complete that testing in just six months.
Engineers can put 100 material samples into the XWO at once to speed up testing of new paints, plastics or other elements destined for a new car. The samples rotate around the light bulb to simulate how the sun moves over a car during the course of a day. Nissan engineers still try out new colors and materials in real sunlight, but the XWO allows for accelerating the process.
“In addition to rigorous real-world tests, this tool allows us to create harsh environments,” Nissan body and chassis testing technician Doug Prytula said in a statement.