Walking The 2018 Ducati Panigale V4 Production Line

Making it right

Ducati Panigale V4
End of the line: Rows of Ducati Panigale V4s await the next step following assembly.Courtesy of Ducati

Ducati's new Panigale V4 is a premium product so those who undertake its expense have a right to expect excellence. Yet nearly 90 percent of what goes into a Ducati is supplied by outside contractors; Italy is rich in small hole-in-the-wall manufacturers doing specialized manufacturing.

The problem of making it all come together is that of scheduling and the assurance of quality. Think of NASA, employing thousands of contractors yet bringing their work together in the form of successful human flight to the moon and back.

The V4 engine assembly line has 32 stations and completion takes three hours. At full capacity, the output is 100 engines per day. The motorcycle line delivers 90 complete machines.

I watched a coordinate-measuring machine dimensioning a completed crankshaft. After this inspection, each crank receives a code indicating which of several selective-fit main and con-rod bearing shells is required on each of its journals. Each and every camshaft is also inspected in this way. Checking and being sure.

Panigale V4 cranshaft code
This Ducati production-line worker is reading the Panigale V4’s crankshaft’s code.Courtesy of Ducati

No one is wielding torque wrenches on this line. All bolts of a critical nature are tensioned by machines.

Companies applying to become Ducati suppliers must pass through a process of 100 percent inspection for a time, then 50 percent inspection. Anytime a defect is found, its supplier must return to novice status and requalify.

Ducati lower engine case
Lower engine case has main-bearing shells in place and is receiving sealant.Courtesy of Ducati

Parts arrive at their stations in build boxes, molded polymer trays into which each part of the group fits. Lighting is bright and the mood calm.

Crankshaft main- and rod-bearing shells lie in see-through cabinets awaiting their arranged marriages with the previously measured journals during engine assembly. Case sealant is “written” into place by a computer-guided stylus in just the right amount to seal without the incontinence of excess.

Cylinder-head fasteners
Cylinder-head fasteners are torqued in place. The machine cycles only when both of the two pistol grips are squeezed, making it hard to be injured.Courtesy of Ducati

Lots of people are at work here because only very high production can afford highly automated assembly.

Completed engines go to a pressure-test station, following which they are trundled off by little guided electric vehicles to a motoring dyno where they are spun for several minutes at first 1,500, then 2,500 rpm for function checks.

Ducati installation
T-handle wrench in his left hand, this man applies possibly lubricant or thread locker to a fastener prior to installation.Courtesy of Ducati
Sealant applied to clutch cover
Automated application of sealant is put on the clutch cover.Courtesy of Ducati
The clutch side of the engine
The clutch side of the engine is ready for installation of the cover. The chain drive seen just below photo center spins the oil pump assembly. The “snorkel” projecting from the oil pumps extends to the bottom of the engine’s deep sump. If it looks like the crank gear isn’t meshing with the clutch gear, that’s because it isn’t: Crank and clutch are connected by an idler gear (invisible behind the clutch) to reverse engine rotation.Courtesy of Ducati
Clutch pressure plate
Torquing the clutch pressure plate.Courtesy of Ducati
deep oil sump
The object seen just above photo center is the engine’s deep oil sump, made as it is so that neither wheelies nor prolonged braking can ever starve the pump of oil. Plain bearings are wonderful but like the human brain they can’t stand any interruption of their vital fluid.Courtesy of Ducati
Sound damper
A sound damper is built into the inside of the clutch cover.Courtesy of Ducati
camshaft bearing saddles
Installing camshaft bearing saddles.Courtesy of Ducati
cam chain
Here you can see the cam chain of the rear cylinder bank, wrapping around the crank, being supported and tensioned between its guide shoes, then driving the exhaust cam. The two cams are connected by gears in the head. Below the builder’s left hand you can see how the two gearbox shafts are located on a slant, as far forward as the presence of the rear cylinder bank will permit.Courtesy of Ducati
Ducati pressure test
Pressure test after assembly is complete.Courtesy of Ducati
engine prepared for motoring test
Completed engines are lifted by slings into boxes that will carry them to the motoring test.Courtesy of Ducati
Spanish-made guided vehicle
Spanish-made guided vehicle follows dark stripe on the floor, carrying a finished, pressure-tested engine to the motoring test. Vehicle slows or stops when people get in its way.Courtesy of Ducati
Ducati motoring test station
An engine arrives at the motoring test station.Courtesy of Ducati

Motorcycle assembly takes two hours, eating what appears to be chaos—subassemblies with dangling wiring and cables—and spitting forth grace, in the form of modern super-performance motorcycles.