An Inside Look at CorkSport R&D

All CorkSport products go through an extensive process to ensure they are the best fitting, looking and performing parts that they can be. As a product development engineer, I see all of these steps on a day-to-day basis, but we don’t often talk about how an idea evolves into a CorkSport part.  Sit back and read on as I give you a glimpse of what goes on during CorkSport R&D.

Concept and Planning

All parts start out as an idea. They come from many sources: employees, forums, car shows.  One of our biggest sources of ideas is YOU! Check out the blog on submitting product ideas for more info on how our customers give us their thoughts.

At the beginning of each quarter, all product ideas are evaluated to determine which are feasible and which are going to be pursued moving forward. After the extensive list is narrowed down, they go into a more in-depth evaluation.

This includes defining the scope of the project, how many man hours it is expected to take, evaluating all expected costs of production, and setting a retail price. Without this evaluation, we would encounter all sorts of roadblocks along the way that would delay getting parts out to you all. If everything is looking good, the project is approved and moves forward.

R&D Begins

At this stage, it’s time to get our hands dirty (literally in some cases). First, we investigate the car the part is for and the scope of the project to understand exactly what the goal of the part is. Doing this allows us to find all design constraints and look for things we may not be expecting. Replacement part diagrams and factory service manuals can be vital here, especially if we do not have a Mazda or Mazdaspeed readily accessible.

By now we usually have a good idea of what features we want the part to have and can move forward with creating an “MVP”. A minimum viable product is just what it sounds like. Not necessarily pretty or optimized yet but good enough to get to see if an idea will work and to check fitment. During MVP creation we have to consider all design constraints, desired features, integration with other CS parts, and even how to manufacture the part. Check out the changes below from an early MVP to the final design for our GEN3 TMM.

If the part can be 3D printed, we print the initial MVP and test fit. Test fits are by far the most unpredictable part of the whole process as sometimes we discover an issue that can change an entire design. Depending on the part, we can have one test fit and be good to go or four and still have work to do. Once we have revised the MVP to a point where it fits well, looks good, and can be manufactured relatively easily, a functional prototype is produced.

Functional Prototypes

This is where the fun really begins; test fitting is a 3D print is one thing, having the part made out of metal is a whole new story. Depending on the part, we sometimes have to skip directly to this stage as it cannot be easily printed in-house. We always have to be careful doing so to limit the number of expensive prototypes we have made. Sometimes this goes well, other times not so much… This swaybar prototype was limiting suspension travel.

A functional prototype also allows for any testing that we may do. Whether it be on the dyno, track, or on the street, all CorkSport parts are used and abused to ensure they hold up to what you can throw at them. Check out an early CS Throttle Body getting tested on a flow bench.

If we are happy with a prototype, this is where you all can get involved again. We often use “Beta Testers” to get another opinion on the part and to see if they come across any issues. From here we sometimes have revisions that need to be made and another prototype produced but ideally, we are ready to move on.

Manufacture & Prep for Release

From here we move to getting the parts made. Sometimes this is a process that only takes a few weeks, other times it takes many months to complete. The manufacturing method, type of part, and order quantity play a big role here. Additionally, some products have a lot of different parts to make up a whole CS product, so each individual part takes time. Sometimes, we even get to see something unexpected, like these Command Wheel Covers before getting anodized black.

While all of this is going on, we are also preparing the product for release. That way, when our manufactured parts show up, we are ready to send them out to all of you. Installation instructions are created, QA checks are set up, laser etch files are set up, product images and video are taken, the web page listing is set up, and so on. Any and all of the content you see on a product is all created in-house. Engineering school definitely did not prepare me for shooting high-quality photos and video!

Check out a “behind the scenes” look at one of our videos:

At this point, we are pretty much ready to bring the new CorkSport Mazda or Mazdaspeed part out to you all. Throughout this process, we are constantly thinking about the experience someone has when they buy the part to ensure it is something that we would be proud to have on our own cars. After all, we build our dream cars using CS parts just like you do!

-Daniel

Ceramic Coating: Hype or Reality?

Ceramic coating has been an up and coming thing for the past few years now.

By now I’m sure most of you have heard of it a time or two. Car enthusiasts have been utilizing it more and more as it has grown in popularity. Most professional detail shops offer this service now, but it doesn’t come cheap.

You may be asking yourself:

Why is this so expensive?

Why is it better than Wax?

Does it work that well?

I was skeptical at first too. I figured it was just the next curved TV. The next fad that’s taking over. However, I have a close friend here in the PNW that does professional detailing, and he convinced me to give it a shot. Afterwards, all I can say is, the hype is very real, and this stuff is amazing! My Mazdaspeed3 looks amazing! I used C-Quartz, but there are lots of different brands and options out there.

I’m going to walk you guys through the process it takes to do the ceramic coat, and you can decide for yourself if it’s truly worth it for you and your Mazda.

So what is Ceramic Coating?

Ceramic Coating is essentially a new achievement in car paint coating.

It chemically bonds to the paint surface allowing for a “Permanent” paint seal. Protecting it from dust, dirt, oxidation, chemicals, or anything that can compromise the paint. Unlike wax, it won’t break down or wash away in a few months. Depending on how many coats you have of ceramic, it can last from months to years.

That’s right… Years.

For those that want to keep their paint sealed and protected for a long time, even after rough winters, this will be the best way to do it. Water, dust, grime, anything that normally sticks to your paint, will have a much tougher time staying in your car due to the properties of the ceramic.

It has fantastic UV protection, and cleaning your car will take half the time. Not only because it prevents as much dirt from staying on your car, but because the water beads off and drying is so much faster! You can even do it on wheels and calipers to prevent dust from sticking as bad, making it much easier to keep clean and looking nice.

The Process

Even for an excellent detailer, this is still a day-long process, if not more. It takes great attention to detail, and some elbow grease to fully prep the car for the ceramic coating. Think of it like painting anything, the better the prep work, the better the final product will be.

It all starts with a car wash/ bath for your Mazda. Remove all the big stuff. Bugs, dirt, grime, etc.

Next comes a full paint correction. They need to get it as smooth and free of defects as possible. In this picture, you can clearly see the difference between left and right sides.

A clay bar is now put to work. Removing any bonded contaminants to the paint. Any bumps that can be felt with your fingers, will be removed, causing the paint to feel smooth like glass again. Quick spray wax is typically used as a lubricant to prevent scratching.

The amazing thing about a clay bar is that it reveals on the contaminants you can’t typically see as well.

After this, the time now comes for the polish! The clear coat is essentially “Rearranged” by heat generated from the polish and the buffing pad. Making it even smoother and glossy again. It takes a lot of practice to know when it’s just right, and not go too far. Otherwise, it will burn the paint.

Now that the swirl Marks are gone, we use what’s called an IPA (Not the 5’Oclock somewhere kind of IPA) This is an isopropyl alcohol and water mixture that will get rid any polish and oil from the paint and lift dust to be removed. Creating a perfect bonding surface to apply the ceramic. This will allow for a stronger chemical bond to the paint.

Now comes the time we have all been waiting for; the application process.

A small applicator that involves a foam block and a suede microfiber cloth is used. Ceramic is applied to the cloth, and then its wiped onto the paint. The method is like wax, in the regard that it must harden a bit before it is buffed off. They go panel by panel and apply it, then wipe off. It is important that the cloth is monitored for hardness too.

The ceramic in the cloth will eventually harden, and then it becomes unusable. The number of coats they do depends typically on how much you pay for. The more coats, the longer it will last.

After the coat, its good to give the ceramic about a day to harden. Then this silica sealant can be applied. This preserves and maintains the ceramic. Every few months apply this to the car like a spray wax to keep it glossy and shiny.

The best part is finally being able to do the first wash (Give it about a week or so before the first wash) and seeing how well it repels the water. It practically jumps off the car. But the crazy part is, it will continue to do this for months, or even years. A normal wax coating to protect your paint Is no longer necessary. Just can sit back and relax knowing the paint is protected.

For anyone who loves their car and maintaining the paint. You will truly enjoy the outcome of this. Professional shops charge quite a bit. But I know plenty of DIY guys like myself that enjoy putting in the elbow grease. Either way, I believe its worth it, no matter the Mazda or Mazdaspeed you’re driving, and I thought I would share my experience with the Mazda Family!

Thanks for checking in,

Regards,
Brett@CorkSport