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BMW shows camouflaged iNext, details production innovations

Rotary bonding tech is used to fuse aluminum and high-strength steel.

BMW has released more photos of its iNext pre-production vehicles and detailed a few manufacturing innovations that will be used to build the all-electric crossover.

The images show an overall shape that is more traditional than the Vision iNext concept, with a less coupe-like profile that is more akin to the X3 or X5 than the sleeker X4.

The camouflage wrap conceals the front end, making it difficult to determine how far the concept's massive kidney grille will be toned down. The company has likely implemented a design similar to that of the iX3 concept, which has a less angular kidney frame around a textured solid panel.

Automakers have begun using new methods to join dissimilar metals as vehicles shift to a mix of aluminum and steel. The iNext follows suit, using rotary bonding to join aluminum and high-strength steel without rivets or structural adhesive.

"This joins aluminium and high-strength steel by using the friction heat generated as a steel element pierces an aluminium part," BMW explains. "The heat of the steel part fuses the two components."

The company is also using lasers to automate validation checks once the bodies are assembled, eliminating the need to manually place measurement points. A high-resolution scanner then compares the complete surfaces of body parts to the CAD reference models, while four x-ray scanner robots allow the internal components and joints to be examined without dismantling the vehicle.

The iNext will serve as BMW's technology flagship, showcasing the company's fifth-generation electric drive system and Level 3 automated driving capabilities.

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