This article was published on February 13th, 2014
The future looks bright for technology and transportation, and when the two come together the possibilities are endless. Ford Motor Company is a leader in the future of vehicle development, and the company uses the latest technology to design advanced vehicles like the 2015 Ford F150 and the Ford Mustang.
Joel Piaskowski, director of exterior design at Ford, explained the process of creating a car and turning a sketch into reality at the North American International Auto Show, held in Detroit, Michigan, in early January.
A Ford vehicle must have bold and beautiful exterior designs, be comfortable to drive, and be fuel-efficient.
The process begins with the global team of Ford designers meet three times each year to review the current and upcoming projects. Vehicle design is based on an inspiration board built around the product they intend on delivery to the end customer. The team finds design influences through history, technology, or the feeling that the finished design should reflect. From there, Ford designs various digital sketches of the vehicle and asks both stakeholders and customers for their feedback.
Customer feedback impacts the next step – digital computer modeling – during which more detailed vehicle specs are decided. Ford designers break down the vehicle into individual parts, even reviewing how the vehicle will look from different angles in varied types of lighting.
A full 3-D electronic model of the car is created so technicians and designers can see what the car will look like in-person or on the road. The company might need months to build the model, but the time is well invested by helping the team decide on design elements such as which fabrics work best for the vehicle and how parts and pieces fit together.
Ford also produces a life-size three-dimensional clay model of the vehicle using one of the company’s five milling machines. The machine reads the vehicle design from the computer and creates the clay model. The design team can then see and touch their concept.
Ford’s advanced technology practices include the use of 3-D printing to manufacture real car parts to use on the vehicle prototype. This helps the team solve potential problems and find better alternatives to some aspects of the vehicle without sending it for full manufacturing. These 3-D printed pieces are used on both the clay model and on real working vehicles, to help designers determine how to solve design challenges and deliver the ultimate driving experience.
When the team is happy with their work and has built a safe, bold, comfortable vehicle, the product is sent for manufacturing on the assembly line. When the vehicle passes all tests and inspections, the cars are shipped to dealerships.
The 2015 Ford F150 has been America’s best selling truck for 37 years, and the Ford Mustang will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2015. Both of these vehicles were developed with this process and are examples of Ford’s firm grasp on the future.