Walking the Ducati 1199 Panigale Line

We visit the Bologna factory to watch an 1199 Power Twin come to life!

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #16

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #16

16. The head of the vertical (rear) cylinder is put in place.

Ducati allowed me to walk the production line of the 1199 Panigale, arguably the most advanced V-Twin in production today. The assembly line is that of the Desmosedici V-Four, completely refurbished and retooled. If it weren't for the scent of special sealants and lubricants, the place would pass for a surgical operating theater. When I stepped into it, my mind went back to when I was working at Ducati.

If I didn’t know that I was in the same Ducati buildings I had walked through 40 years ago, I might have thought that I’d entered the highway to Bologna in the wrong direction and I had ended up in Turin, at Alenia Aerospace Industries. Same neatness, same precision, same digitally managed tools, same highly qualified young technicians who’d graduated from the best technical institutes.

In my day at Ducati, the factory air was dark and thick with greasy fumes, the tooling was basic, and the workers didn’t need any qualification because each one was trained to endlessly duplicate the same operation. Everything was smeared with grease, from the workbenches to the floor. It was like being at a factory at the dawn of industrialization, as Charles Dickens described it in his books—and quality control was contemporary to Charles Dickens’ time too.

Today, it couldn’t be more different. After following the complete assembly of one particular Panigale 1199 Power Twin, I’m ready to swear on a stack of Bibles that this is one of the most painstakingly built engines in the motorcycle industry.

The sequence of assembling operations is executed by a two-man team, as only happens with very special engines; think of the Chevrolet LS7, the 427 cu. in. 505-hp V-Eight that powers the Corvette Z06 and is hand-built at General Motors Performance Build Center in Wixom, Michigan. The two technicians know every detail of each engine they build. At full steam, this high-tech assembly line will deliver 80 Ducati 1199 Panigale Power Twins per day.

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #1

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #1

1. The components of each engine are organized in foam trays that go to the respective workstations on the assembly line. Trays carry every component involved in the specific sequence of assembly operations, bolts and nuts included. Here is the first tray, for the assembly of the lower half of the Power Twin. In addition to the two halves of the crankcase there’s the crank assembly, complete with pistons and related sleeves.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #2

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #2

2. The second tray includes all the components of the top half of the 1199, plus gearbox, oil and water pumps and more. The heads are fully pre-assembled and accurately sealed by plastic plugs.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #3

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #3

3. Prior to being moved to the assembly line, each half-crankcase is first placed inside this electronic tool equipped with a feeler that checks the size of the area where the big-end plain bearings are inserted.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #4

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #4

4. Once the feeler has identified the appropriate size of the plain bearing, the same tool inserts the bearing into each half-crankcase. Bearings are Clevite 112.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #5

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #5

5. The tray with the crankcases and crank assembly (with pistons and cylinder sleeves) meets the second one with heads and transmission at the start of the assembly line.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #6

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #6

6. Here, the first half of the crankcase is secured on the jig. First insertion involves the desmo drum of the gear selector.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #7

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #7

7. Then come the primary and secondary shafts, and the related clusters of gears.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #8

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #8

8. To protect vital components such as crankshaft, rods, pistons and sleeves, the pre-assembled unit is secured to an aluminum jig with Teflon holders.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #9

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #9

9. The Teflon protector has been removed from the lower half of the crankshaft, and the related main journal (properly lubricated) is inserted in its bearing.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #10

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #10

10. The top half of the safety jig has also been removed. Here we are looking at the top end of a 112mm/4.41in. piston.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #11

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #11

11. Meanwhile, the second half-crankcase is receiving the dose of sealant applied by a computerized tool inside this sealed chamber.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #12

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #12

12. The second half is mated to the rest of the crankcase and torque-fastened using electronically managed wrenches that ensure correct torque values. Note that the cylinder sleeves still poke out. Still visible are the two O-rings that ensure correct sealing between the water-cooled top half of the cylinder sleeve and the lower half.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #13

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #13

13. Now the sleeves are pushed down to their proper position inside the outer cylinders shell.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #14

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #14

14. The sleeve is torqued down inside the cylinder with the insertion of this Teflon tool that prevents any damage to the top edge.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #15

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #15

15. The heads are readied for the mating with the cylinders. The safety plugs are removed.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #16

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #16

16. The head of the vertical (rear) cylinder is put in place.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #17

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #17

17. The wrench used to torque the heads is connected by Bluetooth to a computer display where the operator can check the progression of the torque applied.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #18

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #18

18. When the band color in the computer display (top right) turns from blue to green, the torque is correct.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #19

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #19

19. The preassembly of the head includes the cam chain. Here the related sprocket has just been put in place on the crankshaft.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #20

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #20

20. The Power Twin is taking shape, with a number of ancillaries already in place, like starter motor (bottom right), water pump gear (top center), oil pump (bottom center) and chain guide (top center-left).
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #21

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #21

21. The third and last tray includes the components of the primary transmission and clutch, plus crankcase covers, oil radiator, alternator and more ancillaries.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #22

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #22

22. The cam covers have been removed from the heads to insert the chain on the top and bottom sprockets and then proceed with cam timing.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #23

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #23

23. The bottom sprocket first.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #24

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #24

24. Then the cam sprocket that drives the two desmo cams via a pair of gears and a chain with straight runs, which ideally makes for longer life, ease of adjustment and higher rpm limits.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #25

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #25

25. This special tool is applied to block the camshafts in their proper phasing positions.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #26

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #26

26. Likewise, the crankshaft has been blocked in the proper phasing position, and now the chain tensioner is put in position.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #27

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #27

27. Once the cam timing has been set, a green marker dot is applied.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #28

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #28

28. The spring-loaded primary transmission front gear and the clutch are now positioned and torqued. The alternator has been inserted at the other end of the crankshaft.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #29

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #29

29. Side covers and sump are in place, and a new Power Twin is almost ready to power the Panigale.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #30

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #30

30. Last touch is the re-installation of the cam covers.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #31

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #31

31. The completed engine is hoisted off the line and placed in its final-assembly tray.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #1

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #1

The components of each engine are organized in foam trays that go to the respective workstations on the assembly line. Trays carry every component involved in the specific sequence of assembly operations, bolts and nuts included. Here is the first tray, for the assembly of the lower half of the Power Twin. In addition to the two halves of the crankcase there?s the crank assembly, complete with pistons and related sleeves.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #2

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #2

The second tray includes all the components of the top half of the 1199, plus gearbox, oil and water pumps and more. The heads are fully pre-assembled and accurately sealed by plastic plugs.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #3

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #3

Prior to being moved to the assembly line, each half-crankcase is first placed inside this electronic tool equipped with a feeler that checks the size of the area where the big-end plain bearings are inserted.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #4

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #4

Once the feeler has identified the appropriate size of the plain bearing, the same tool inserts the bearing into each half-crankcase. Bearings are Clevite 112.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #5

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #5

The tray with the crankcases and crank assembly (with pistons and cylinder sleeves) meets the second one with heads and transmission at the start of the assembly line.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #6

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #6

Here, the first half of the crankcase is secured on the jig. First insertion involves the desmo drum of the gear selector.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #7

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #7

Then come the primary and secondary shafts, and the related clusters of gears.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #8

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #8

To protect vital components such as crankshaft, rods, pistons and sleeves, the pre-assembled unit is secured to an aluminum jig with Teflon holders.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #9

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #9

The Teflon protector has been removed from the lower half of the crankshaft, and the related main journal (properly lubricated) is inserted in its bearing.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #10

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #10

The top half of the safety jig has also been removed. Here we are looking at the top end of a 112mm/4.41in. piston.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #11

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #11

Meanwhile, the second half-crankcase is receiving the dose of sealant applied by a computerized tool inside this sealed chamber.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #12

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #12

The second half is mated to the rest of the crankcase and torque-fastened using electronically managed wrenches that ensure correct torque values. Note that the cylinder sleeves still poke out. Still visible are the two O-rings that ensure correct sealing between the water-cooled top half of the cylinder sleeve and the lower half.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #13

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #13

Now the sleeves are pushed down to their proper position inside the outer cylinders shell.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #14

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #14

The sleeve is torqued down inside the cylinder with the insertion of this Teflon tool that prevents any damage to the top edge.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #15

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #15

The heads are readied for the mating with the cylinders. The safety plugs are removed.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #16

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #16

The head of the vertical (rear) cylinder is put in place.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #17

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #17

The wrench used to torque the heads is connected by Bluetooth to a computer display where the operator can check the progression of the torque applied.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #18

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #18

When the band color in the computer display (top right) turns from blue to green, the torque is correct.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #19

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #19

The preassembly of the head includes the cam chain. Here the related sprocket has just been put in place on the crankshaft.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #20

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #20

The Power Twin is taking shape, with a number of ancillaries already in place, like starter motor (bottom right), water pump gear (top center), oil pump (bottom center) and chain guide (top center-left).
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #21

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #21

The third and last tray includes the components of the primary transmission and clutch, plus crankcase covers, oil radiator, alternator and more ancillaries.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #22

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #22

The cam covers have been removed from the heads to insert the chain on the top and bottom sprockets and then proceed with cam timing.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #23

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #23

The bottom sprocket first.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #24

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #24

Then the cam sprocket that drives the two desmo cams via a pair of gears and a chain with straight runs, which ideally makes for longer life, ease of adjustment and higher rpm limits.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #25

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #25

This special tool is applied to block the camshafts in their proper phasing positions.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #26

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #26

Likewise, the crankshaft has been blocked in the proper phasing position, and now the chain tensioner is put in position.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #27

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #27

Once the cam timing has been set, a green marker dot is applied.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #28

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #28

The spring-loaded primary transmission front gear and the clutch are now positioned and torqued. The alternator has been inserted at the other end of the crankshaft.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #29

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #29

Side covers and sump are in place, and a new Power Twin is almost ready to power the Panigale.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #30

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #30

Last touch is the re-installation of the cam covers.
Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #31

Ducati 1199 Panigale engine assembly line #31

The completed engine is hoisted off the line and placed in its final-assembly tray.
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