Laser-Etched Paintwork Is GM's Next Big Customization Option

Design / 4 Comments

A new patent details a laser marking system for personalizing your Corvette or Camaro from the factory with any design you like.

Decal packages are so 2022; General Motors wants to take car customization to a new level by laser-etching custom designs right into the bare metal and paintwork of your new Corvette Z06, giving you permanent designs of your choosing in your paintwork right from the factory that won't peel away with time.

This is according to a patent filed with the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA) by GM's R&D subsidiary, GM Global Technology Operations LLC.

GM highlights that decals commonly form part of visual packages - which, in the case of the C8 Corvette, has included the Corvette Racing Jake emblem and various stripe packages. But people like customizing their cars beyond factory options, and in this case, decals, and vinyl wraps take time to apply. GM thinks that a week without your car is simply too much time spent not driving. So instead, it wants to make sure your vehicle has whatever graphics you want before it even lands at the dealer.


To this end, GM details two primary means of laser-etching designs onto a car's bodywork: one directly onto the metal bodywork before the paint is applied and one after the paint has been applied.

The first is pretty self-explanatory, as laser-etched metal has its own allure and can create fantastic designs. However, once you apply paint over the top - unless GM is somehow suggesting bare metal designs leave the factory - the design may be less noticeable.

The second method for laser-etching painted surfaces is more likely to reach production, with GM proposing several alternatives. Multi-layer paints are common in the motor industry - just look at the incredible lengths Mazda goes to with its paint colors like Soul Red, which has a coppery undercoat with a translucent red top coat to create the depth we all know and love. Well, GM's patent proposes laser etching right through that top coat to let the undercoat show through in a design of your choosing.


The patent describes as many as four layers of different color paints, meaning, including the bare metal underneath, you could have as many as five different shades to play with in your design. Beyond this, laser etching gives you the flexibility of etching away only a partial layer of paint, letting the undercoat peak through but not be fully revealed, allowing a multitude of shades to be brought to life.

Although the patent doesn't explicitly note it, we imagine once the design is laser etched in place, a clear coat would be applied over the top of the body to protect the paint underneath.


This concept is tantamount to buying your car with a tattoo: the design would likely be personal in nature, and its difficulty (but not impossibility) to remove may result in regrets further down the line. A well-executed design as a nod to a particular car's heritage, for example, could be seen as tasteful - and may not pose a problem to subsequent buyers on the secondhand market - but a bad design or color choice might be seen as the neck tattoo of the automotive world, severely impacting resale prices.

Naturally, this wouldn't be something done on every car, so it would likely be an expensive customization option for discerning buyers in much the same way as Bentley's Mulliner department or the Rolls-Royce Bespoke department would custom commission a design or interior for you.

On that note, the patent even briefly mentions an "interior surface with an ornament," suggesting you may be able to spec custom designs on your trim panels, too.


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