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FORD ADVANCED ENGINEERING CENTER (AEC): THE NEXT GENERATION IN PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

 DEARBORN, Mich., June 14 /PRNewswire/ -- From its state-of-the-art computer simulation laboratories to its sophisticated laser and robotic chambers designed to improve product quality, Ford Motor Company's (NYSE: F) new $84 million Advanced Engineering Center (AEC) is one of the world's premier facilities dedicated to pre-program engineering; the formation of co-located teams; and reduction of Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH).
 Located in Dearborn, the AEC is fundamental to the implementation of Ford's new World Class Product Development Process, which brings higher quality products to market about 25 percent faster than traditional methods -- nominally 37 months for an all-new product.
 "In effect," said Neil W. Ressler, executive director, Ford Vehicle Engineering, "the AEC is the nucleus of a comprehensive system that takes products from their embryonic stage through final development and into product refinement."
 The AEC's fourth floor, for example, is the staging area for Ford's product development teams. These teams are fundamental to Ford's approach to vehicle development, and it is at the AEC that the product development teams are first formed and carry out the early long-lead development work for specific vehicles.
 From this embryonic stage -- where the teams refine their early product definitions and map out their specific staffing needs over the life of the product they will develop -- each product development team moves on to new quarters as the programs grow and turn vision into reality.
 The co-located teams are integral to Ford's new product development process -- known as World Class Timing, which is dedicated to bringing high-quality products to market faster and more efficiently. Each of the cross-functional teams includes members from different areas of the company: design, engineering, purchasing, manufacturing, body and assembly, finance and others.
 Co-locating program teams enhances communication and teamwork and speeds up the decision-making and problem-solving processes, leading to improved function and higher-quality vehicles that will give higher customer satisfaction.
 On the AEC's third and second floors, Ford engineers do most of the company's pre-program engineering simulation. From air-flow studies to crash testing, the company's Advanced Engineering and Technology Department teams use computer simulation to accomplish in weeks what used to take months and years.
 "With our in-house computers here at the AEC to our link-up with the Cray supercomputers in the Engineering Computer Center down the street, we map out on computer software the virtual shape of things to come," said Ressler. "This capability is so staggering that it defies imagination.
 "Our computer experts," he added, "estimate that the computing power of our most recent and most sophisticated computer acquisitions -- the Cray Y-MP C90 system -- can yield in one second of complex number crunching what it would take 30 people to accomplish in 80 years if they all worked on basic math computations non-stop with hand caculators. And ... I should mention ... the Cray never sleeps."
 Christopher L. Magee, director, Ford Advanced Vehicle Systems Engineering, puts it this way: "With the pre-program engineering capabilities we have at the AEC, we can anticipate and solve engineering issues and concerns early in the development process. Traditionally, these problems have only come to light late in the development process -- after a significant amount of work has already gone into a production design. A dollar of engineering work spent early might be the equivalent of 10, or a hundred or even a thousand dollars spent on retroactive engineering later in the process."
 Magee cites his department's pioneering work in the area of lightweight materials as another challenging area. Ford is a leader in the application of stamped aluminum in high-volume production, and Magee's department is continuing to extend Ford's expertise to ever more challenging applications. Presently, Ford uses more aluminum in its vehicles than any other auto manufacturer. From its annual production of 350,000 aluminum hoods to the all-aluminum 4.6L modular V-8 engines, Ford continues to increase the average amount of aluminum in its vehicles.
 Automotive industry insiders and analysts have recently come to realize that perhaps the single most important factor that will impact customer buying decisions in the future is noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). On the AEC's first floor are the laboratories and test cells dedicated to NVH efforts.
 From laser holography -- a process used to analyze noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), to the latest generation acoustic chambers, the AEC is at the forefront of work in this area. "Experts agree NVH is the nxt frontier in automotive development, because as the quality gap continues to narrow, the sound and ride of a vehicle will continue to grow as a critical influence in car and truck purchase decisions," said David A. Velliky, manager of Ford's NVH and Advanced Technology Department.
 The AEC is one of the world's largest engineering facilities dedicated to NVH testing and analysis. The AEC's NVH engineering section houses 34 major areas, including laboratories for testing, evaluating and developing advanced design concepts. The labs are equipped with the latest in forefront technology -- from laser holography to state-of-the-art 4-wheel-drive dynamometer chambers and high-powered computers used to simulate and analyze engineering concepts. This equipment provides Ford researchers with the most complete NVH data attainable.
 The AEC's NVH efforts focus on five major areas: Human Perception, Vehicle Body NVH, Powertrain NVH, Vehicle System NVH and Computer Simulation. Each of these areas is simultaneously involved in the product development process. In effect, focusing efforts in these areas enables engineers to determine customer desires, evaluate concepts, and validate designs.
 Each of the five areas contains specialized testing, modeling and simulation equipment to analyze, measure and accurately predict NVH levels in components, systems and vehicles. And the stringent requirements involved in the simultaneous tesing and analysis in these five areas place special demands on the AEC.
 For example, to ensure exact measurements, each lab and test cell is isolated from external vibrations. In fact, some of the test equipment rests on special air springs that essentially "float" the equipment within the building in much the same way that a raft would float in an indoor swimming pool. "The difference," said Velliky, "is that our rafts are independent concrete blocks, some of which weigh as much as 500,000 pounds."
 The AEC's Human Perception Laboratory gives engineers the ability to gauge customer preference to determine how they want their cars and trucks to sound. A state-of-the-art vehicle and component sound quality listening and evaluating room in the Human Perception Laboratory employs stereophonic headphones and a vast data base of recorded sound to gauge customr reaction to various sounds. In effect, engineers use customer input to create and modify vehicle sounds using digital sound equipment and computer sound modeling. Ford engineers "listen" to customer perceptions of "good" sound, and then with the aid of computer modeling, establish what sounds deliver the highest customer satisfaction.
 In the Human Perception Laboratory, another important analysis technique uses lasers. This lab employs state-of-the-art laser holography techniques to gain the most precise vibration measurements possible. The continuous wave laser gathers data on vehicle vibrations without engineers having to contact the component in question -- thereby allowing engineers to avoid attaching equipment that would alter the component's vibration modes.
 The information gleaned by the continuous laser is used to create a computer-generated graphic representation of vehicle vibration. This provides Ford scientists with pinpoint measurement accuracy which can be used to help develop structures to eliminate or minimize negative vibration and acoustic characteristics.
 Engineers and technicians use holograms, interferograms and displacement maps to illustrate NVH elements in graphical form and analyze how best to reduce undesirable sound.
 Lasers also are used to measure inernal air flow and vibration. Engineers and technicians in effect use sheets of laser light enhanced by particulate to make visible air stream flow around under-hood components and exterior/interior vehicle elements. Helped by this technique, engineers decide how best to improve under-hood heat transfer and interior heating/cooling distribution and noise.
 In the AEC's Body NVH Laboratory, engineers evaluate vibration characteristics of the vehicle shell, underbody, suspension components and other vehicle systems like the steering column.
 By understanding unique vibration patterns and their interaction on and between components and vehicle systems, this technique -- called modal analysis -- can fundamentally reduce the negative NVH characteristics of final designs.
 The Powertrain Laboratory consists of five major chambers to study and improve the NVH characteristics of the engine, transmission and related attaching components. Each chamber is acoustically designed to capture the signature of scores of moving internal powertrain components. Using robots for data acquisition, engineers are able to evaluate new design concepts and customize the sound quality of future powertrains.
 In the rear-wheel-drive powertrain test chamber, engineers use a sophisticated 3-D Acoustic Intensity Measurement Robot System to obtain measurements on all planes surrounding a component while it is being tested. This is the only one of its kind in the United States.
 The AEC's Total Vehicle Chambers are specially designed to conduct full vehicle NVH analysis in an isolated environment. "Here we can simulate virtually any driving condition," said Velliky, "including road surface, incline, temperature, and driver input ... while collecting NVH data."
 In addition to powertrain sounds, the AEC houses an exhaust noise test chamber that allows isolation of exhaust noises from engine sounds. Using customer preference data from the Human Factors Laboratory, engineers can customize exhaust sounds to match the "right" sound to a given product.
 Like all the AEC's facilities, the dynamometer chambers are designed to accommodate not only current needs, but also future requirements. For instance, the dynamometer rolls are capable of simulating 150 miles- per-hour driving speeds and temperature ranges from minus 20 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
 In designing the AEC, Ford engineers placed a premium on function.
 "We were more interested in what we could accomplish at the AEC than in making it look flashy," said Velliky.
 Glen S. Lyall, chief engineer, Ford Vehicle Development, pictures the AEC as a combination of state-of-the-art equipment run by the best and the brightest.
 "Despite all the advanced technology in this building," said Lyall, "it still boils down to people. The AEC is a very sophisticated tool, but it's important to remember that the engineers who are working in this building were the ones who designed it. We actually gave them a clean slate and told them to design the kind of center they wanted. They did, and it's truly a tribute to them as much as it is an excellent tool."
 -0- 6/14/93
 /CONTACT: Mark Miller of Ford, 313-845-5745/
 (F)


CO: Ford Motor Company ST: Michigan IN: AUT SU:

ML -- DE008 -- 1560 06/14/93 10:53 EST
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Date:Jun 14, 1993
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