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Ford Invests in New Research and Manufacturing Facilities

December 13, 2007

Ford Australia today unveiled its new Research and Development Centre in Geelong, as the first of a number of new facilities that will enable the company to continue developing world-class vehicles for Australia and overseas markets.

In mid-2006, Ford Australia announced a new strategic direction for the company, including significant investment in new projects and accompanying facilities totalling more than $1.8 billion over the next decade.

The new R&D Centre, to be officially completed in early 2008, will be one of the first facilities to come on line as part of the overall investment program, along with the addition of new equipment and facilities within Stamping Operations and at the Ford Australia Proving Ground.

"For over 80 years, Ford has taken a leadership role in automotive design, engineering and manufacturing in Australia," Ford Australia President, Mr Tom Gorman said.

"The new facilities in Geelong and at our Proving Ground represent some of the most significant facilities investment programs ever undertaken by the company, demonstrating our commitment to technological leadership, as well as helping build Ford's capability as an innovative and progressive vehicle manufacturer.

"The new R&D Centre is set to become a centrepiece of our local operation, which will underpin future engineering projects and equip Ford Australia to play an even greater role within the Asia Pacific region.

"It will enhance Ford Australia's position as a design and engineering centre of excellence within the company's global product development community, as well as ensuring our local operation can take advantage of strategic global opportunities."

Research & Development Centre

The new $27 million R&D Centre is larger and more efficient than the Product Engineering Office (PEO) it replaces, which was actually built during WWII as a warehouse and then converted to the PEO in the early 1960s to support the early development of the Falcon.

Located adjacent to the company's Engine and Stamping plants at the Geelong Automotive Manufacturing Operations (AMO) site, the new R&D Centre contains two separate buildings connected by an overhead walkway. A two storey office complex sits across the front of the site, with three large workshop bays extending behind the offices and a smaller, second building also at the rear of the facility.

Covering a total area of almost 10,000 square metres, split 40/60 between office and workshop spaces, the new buildings will house approximately 350 engineers and support staff in the office complex and a further 120 employees across the workshop areas.

The design and layout of the office complex permits a flexible arrangement that allows for alternate work group requirements depending on the various stages of a vehicle development program.

The four adjoining workshop areas are all larger and more efficient than in the PEO and include a Prototype Shop, Development Garage, Mechanical and Hydraulic Test Laboratory, and an Engine Test and Development Laboratory.

In the Prototype Shop a team of highly skilled tradespeople craft prototype panels and modify complete vehicles to enable package clinics and dynamic evaluations of future vehicle proposals.

The Development Garage contains the latest vehicle-lift hoists to suit a wide range of vehicles, including those with low ground clearance and others with high ground clearance conditions.

The Mechanical and Hydraulic Test Laboratory contains new noise enclosures for completing component and full vehicle testing with servo hydraulic road simulators and high frequency vibration testing equipment.

In most cases, the equipment is mounted on specially designed large seismic masses (huge concrete blocks) sunk metres into the ground, so as to isolate major rig test facilities from the surrounding building.

The Engine Test and Development Laboratory is the last part of the new structure to be completed and is also the most complex part of the construction – the triple storey layout features all the services in the basement and on the first floor, allowing a simple and efficient layout of the engine dynamometers on the ground floor.

The front faηade of the building is a modern interpretation of the original brick Ford manufacturing building, which was built in the 1920s. No combustible materials were permitted in the building construction in order to comply with Ford Motor Company's strict standards of fire protection.

Recent developments in Stamping

Over the past three years, substantial investment and major civil works have also transformed Ford's Stamping Operations in Geelong, with new buildings, new press lines and new press equipment added to the facility in support of the launch of a new, eighth-generation Falcon.

Total investment in the stamping facility of $55 million incorporates a new "wide-body" press line, a hydraulic try-out press and a new blanking press, along with the accompanying building extension, civil and ancillary works in preparing and modifying the plant.

"To accommodate the three new press facilities, the stamping plant had to be expanded, while at the same time continuing to operate efficiently and to capacity for the manufacture of current Falcon and Territory models," Mr Gorman said.

"In delivering the complex matrix of new facilities and services that are now on line and operating in the stamping plant, around $15 million of the total investment was spent with local and regional companies in Geelong and Melbourne to complete the new buildings and civil works."

Foundation works and the main building extension involved a number of key items, including building construction, sub-station fit-out and connection of services, installation of a 50-tonne overhead crane, basement works for the Press Line, Blanking Line and Try-Out Press, and scrap conveyors for the Press Line and Blanking Line.

Existing equipment, such as the Baler, had to be relocated to a temporary position and then repositioned in its new location once the building expansion and associated construction was completed.

The new wide-body press line, Press Line 21, consists of four integrated, state-of-the-art mechanical presses with robot automation, which will produce a 'single-piece body side' panel – a first for Ford in Australia.

Serviced by six robots and five automated guided vehicles, the new press line is capable of producing between 380-520 parts per hour and will eventually press up to 28 unique parts.

The tandem presses are also capable of stamping left- and right-hand side doors simultaneously for every cycle courtesy of smart tooling design, which both improves productivity and lowers costs.

The new press facility provides Ford's local manufacturing operation with a number of world-class features, including:

* A world-first in aluminium tooling with an auto tool-change device
* World-class four-six minute die changeover times (depending on tooling derivatives/variations)
* First facility in the world to employ the latest level 7-axis robots (five of the six automated robots servicing the new press line are 7-axis machines)

The new hydraulic tryout press will enable testing and quality improvements to be initiated outside of the main press line, as well as supporting the addition of the Focus small car to Ford's manufacturing operation in 2011.

The new blanking press line delivers numerous productivity improvements to the stamping process, including the elimination of case stock, which is now pre-blanked before delivery.

The new blanking press includes a servo oscillation die, which performs angular cuts at high speed, and a curved cut-off die for hood blanks, and can produce up to 3,000 parts per hour.

When the new Falcon is launched in 2008 it will be the first locally-manufactured Ford model to feature a single-piece body side (SPBS) panel, which will deliver improved quality, vehicle rigidity and vehicle refinement, among other benefits.

From a manufacturing standpoint, utilising SPBS panels also increases efficiency inside the stamping plant by reducing both the number of dies required and the die changeover times.

Project specifications:

* Press Line 21 (tandem presses with robot automation)
o Press #1: 2,400 tonne
o Press #2, #3 and #4: 1,000 tonne
o Size: 4.8m x 2.4m (capable of running a full body side)
o Press equipment manufactured by Fagor (Spain)
o Robot automation manufactured by ABB (Spain), managed by ABB Australia
* Hydraulic Try-Out Press: 2,400 tonne
* Six robots, five of which are 7-axis machines
* Five automated guided vehicles for material flow, moving parts away from the line in a coordinated pattern

New automotive test facilities

An array of new facilities have been commissioned for Ford Australia's You Yangs Proving Ground (YYPG) during 2007, as the company takes on an enhanced role as a design and engineering 'centre of excellence' for the Asia Pacific and Africa region.

In addition to the new automotive test facilities being developed under the Advanced Centre for Automotive Research and Testing (ACART) banner, Ford's YYPG has been upgraded with a number of major new facilities, including a Vehicle Semi Anechoic Chamber, a Vehicle Dynamics Area, a Kinematics & Compliance Rig and a High Speed Centre.

"More than $29 million has been invested in the new facilities, which will contribute significantly to Ford Australia's leading-edge design and engineering capability," Mr Gorman said.

Semi Anechoic Chamber

The only one if its kind in Australia, Ford's new Vehicle Semi Anechoic Chamber (VSAC) has been designed to replicate a moving vehicle during open road driving, but in a controlled environment.

The surrounding acoustic conditions behave as a sterile version of the real world for the purpose of vehicle refinement and NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) testing.

The chamber creates free field conditions, but above a reflective plane so that, above a certain frequency, all sounds waves that hit the walls or ceiling of the chamber will be absorbed.

For the application of vehicle testing, the benefits of a semi anechoic chamber are considerable, including:

* Errors in the measurement of key NVH metrics due to wind and weather are eliminated
* Key NVH metrics can be repeatedly measured under constant temperatures (variability in tyres and cabin air space temperatures can prove critical)
* Measurement variability due to dissimilar road surfaces is eliminated
* Operator (driver) variability is eliminated through application of a driver robot
* Front and rear axles can be independently driven, developed and tested as singular contributing systems
* Testing can be conducted 24/7 irrespective of ambient lighting conditions
* Vehicle top speed testing can be conducted without track closures or other preventative safety measures

Improved prototype security is also a key benefit of the VSAC facility, due to the reduction in equivalent on road testing that is required.

The chamber is designed to replicate a moving vehicle on open road driving to a maximum speed of 250 km/h via an all-wheel drive capable dynamometer, rated to 300 kW at the rear and 200 kW at the front.

Temperature in the chamber is controlled through a 200 kW chiller and 38 kW heater units, with 70 per cent of cooling air recirculated to increase energy efficiency and reduce running costs, while the energy generated during dyno braking modes is fed back into the community power grid.

The 1.35 metre Metadyne perforated, metal-faced, acoustic absorption wedges enable the chamber to replicate the open road above 50Hz, which is well below all powertrain and road noise frequencies of interest for driving.

Background noise has been designed to be less than 25 dB(A) for engine idle measurements, while it has also been certified at 50 dB(A) at 100 km/h equivalent road speed.

Textured epoxy road shells replicating Australian coarse road surfaces can be specially fitted to the dyno for vehicle and tyre development – road shells also replicate the Gleneagles coarse road at Dearborn Proving Ground for global proving ground correlation.

The internal chamber building features 200mm thick concrete tilt-slab acoustic wall barrier construction, along with 750 Metadyne acoustic absorption wedges and a 120-tonne seismically de-coupled concrete footing for the dynamometer.

Project specifications:

* Front axle power: 200 kW
* Rear axle power: 300 kW
* Max speed: 250 km/h

* Max. cooling air flow: 11.1m³/s
* Max. summer cooling: 25°C at 38°C building ambient
* Max. winter heating: 38°C at 5°C building ambient
* Roll diameter: 1844mm
* Wheelbase range: 2500mm – 4200mm
* Inertia simulation range: 450kg – 5,400kg
* Max. permissible axle load: 2,000kg
* Roller bearings: Hydrostatic for low vibrations
* AC electric motors: Water cooled


* Internal chamber dimensions: 17.1m long x 12.8m wide

* Additional 200mm concrete tilt-slab acoustic barrier wall to plant room

Vehicle Dynamics Area

The new Vehicle Dynamics Area (VDA) was modelled on specifications for similar facilities at the Lommel (LPG), Dearborn (DPG) and Michigan (MPG) Proving Grounds, with specific detail placed on the design of the surface to ensure full design life useability.

The VDA has been designed to accommodate current test procedures as well as provide for future test capabilities, with consideration given to future low friction surfaces and wet test facilities.

Layout of the VDA was designed against a list of mandatory requirements and corporate test procedures for vehicle dynamics that could not be performed anywhere at the Ford Australia's YYPG.

The list also includes up to 27 other vehicle dynamics sign-off tests, as well as development testing and other vehicle systems tests for powertrain and wind noise.

The core vehicle dynamics test area is 935 metres in length and 100 metres across at its widest point, and is serviced from both sides by 650 metre acceleration roads.

The VDA surface is asphalt with a very specific tolerance for coefficient of friction, while basalt tile and brushed concrete surfaces are intended future additions.

Consultation with Ford facility staff worldwide and local asphalt contractors resulted in tests on pavement core samples from MPG and design verifications of LPG by Auburn University Alabama's NCAT (National Center of Asphalt Technology). These tests enabled a localised design to be developed and tested at NCAT which was the best fit for required friction levels and cost.

Project specifications:

* Sealed area: 50,000 sq m
* Surface variation: <8mm over 3 metre span
* Coefficient of friction (design): 0.96-0.90 peak / 0.90-0.80 slip
* Total centreline length of VDA (including acceleration roads): 2235 metres

Kinematics & Compliance Rig

The new Kinematics and Compliance (K&C) rig, to be installed at YYPG in early 2008, is designed to determine the elastokinematic properties of suspension systems. It originates from a flight simulator background, with Ford of Europe heavily involved in its development for application in vehicle testing.

With a K&C rig, a vehicle suspension can be loaded with cornering forces, braking forces, wheel alignment torques and simulated road undulations, to facilitate measurement of the following characteristics:

* Road wheel steering angle changes (toe changes)
* Road wheel camber angle changes
* Steering wheel torque
* Roll-centre height
* Tyre contact reaction forces
* Wheel displacements
* Suspension part displacements

Ford's K&C rig is used for measuring against system level targets, as well as for root-cause analysis when system behaviours are not according to expectations. The data format and analysis is 100 per cent compatible with Ford operations in Europe and North America.

System specifications for the Ford Australia K&C rig, including displacement, force and movement ranges, are equivalent to or better than all existing rigs of its kind within Ford Motor Company.

Project specifications:

* Track width: 1200mm – 2050mm
* Wheelbase & mass: not limited
* Cartesian displacement with accuracy of ±0.1mm
* Rotational displacements with accuracy of ±0.015°

High Speed Centre

The new High Speed Centre at YYPG has been designed for conducting vehicle high speed powertrain durability, powertrain system durability and catalyst ageing mileage accumulation.

The facility can operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week unmanned, courtesy of an automated driver robot, which reduces test times, improves safety and guarantees a repeatable test regime.

Robotic vehicle control in the high speed centre extends to key switch actuation, throttle control actuation, gear shift actuation (manual and automatic), and clutch control actuation, while potential future upgrades for the facility could incorporate brake pedal control.

Project specifications:

* Front axle power (fixed): 150 kW
* Front axle tractive force: 6,000 N
* Rear axle power (moveable): 300 kW
* Rear axle tractive force: 12,000 N
* Wheelbase: 2250mm – 4700mm
* Inertia range (2WD): 453kg – 5,443kg
* Inertia range (4WD): 907kg – 10,886kg
* Max speed front wheel: 250 km/h
* Max speed rear wheel: 250 km/h
* Analogue, Digital and C.A.N Data recording

Automatic Fuelling System

* Fuel cap quick connection
* Diesel and petrol control
* Fuel gauge interaction
* Weigh fuel delivery or direct fill
* Fuel spill sensors

Vehicle Protection

* Flame detection
* Smoke detection
* In car CO2 system
* Under body CO2 system
* Oil and water leak detection

Remote Display and Control

* Eight cameras – multiple angles
* DV recording
* SMS control and alarms
* Network control

Wind Speed

* 250km/h @ 0.8m² nozzle
* Fan motor power – 351kW


The Advanced Centre for Automotive Research and testing (ACART) is a collaborative venture between Ford Australia and the University of Melbourne, which is funded in part by the Victorian State Government through its Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) infrastructure grants program.

Once operational, ACART will provide the local automotive and transport industries with state-of-the-art infrastructure and highly skilled personnel for advanced automotive research and testing.

The Ford Australia node of ACART is located at the company's You Yangs Proving Ground and includes two major facilities for vehicle testing – an Environmental Wind Tunnel and an Emissions Test Cell.

Both facilities are certified to ISO 9000 and ISO14000, while the Emissions Lab that houses the Emissions Test Cell is accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA – Australia's national laboratory accreditation authority) to ISO 17025.

Environmental Wind Tunnel

The new Environmental Wind Tunnel is located close to the Emissions Lab and will be used to develop future automotive heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) and engine cooling systems, as well as conduct research.

The new, high-tech facility will be the most powerful wind tunnel in the southern hemisphere and will provide the automotive, off-road and military sectors with a controlled and repeatable environment to develop products suitable for all global markets.

It will assist Ford, and other customers in the Asia Pacific and Africa region, in delivering a 'quicker to market strategy' for new products, as it is capable of performing 24/7 testing in consistent and predictable test conditions versus the real world.

Currently in the final stages of construction, the Environmental Wind Tunnel will be correlated with other Ford wind tunnels, as well as with real world road testing.

Project specifications:

Wind Speed

* 250 km/h @ 2.7 m² nozzle
* 197 km/h @ 4.0 m² nozzle

Diurnal Sun Load Simulation

* Operating range: 600 – 1200W/m²
* Irradiation area: 6.0 m x 2.5 m
* Irradiation uniformity: ±5%
* Full spectrum with UV-B filters


* Front axle power (fixed): 150 kW
* Front axle tractive force: 6,000 N
* Rear axle (moveable): 300 kW
* Rear axle tractive force: 10,000 N
* Wheelbase: 2300mm – 4750mm
* Inertia range (2WD): 453kg – 5,443kg
* Inertia range (4WD): 907kg – 10,886kg
* Multiple point data recording

Air Conditioning

* Temperature: -40°C to +55°C
* Temperature stability: <0.5°C at constant load
* Cool down rate: +40°C to -20°C in 2.5 hours
* Heat up rate: -20°C to +36°C in 2.5 hours
* Humidity range: 10 – 95%rh
* Humidity range accuracy: ±2%rh
* Humidity range stability: ±5%rh
* Two independent soak chambers

Future upgrades protected

* Snow simulation
* Rain simulation
* Secondary suction system to reduce boundary layer to 5mm

Emissions Test Cell

The Emissions Test Cell is located in the existing Ford Australia Emissions Laboratory, which has a long track record in emissions testing and development – both for internal Ford customers as well as for external customers from Australia and overseas.

First established in 1972, the Emissions Lab enables Ford's development engineers to maximise fuel economy, achieve low exhaust and evaporative emissions, and optimise performance and driveability on new vehicle designs.

Now a multi-fuel cell, Emissions Test Cell 2 has been completely redesigned and re-equipped as part of the ACART program, adding diesel testing capability along with an extensive list of new test equipment, such as the all-wheel drive dynamometer.

Project specifications:

ACART Emissions Test Cell 2 (Diesel & Petrol)

* Euro 4 Diesel
* Euro 5 Petrol
* SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle)
* Two raw gas lines
* Horiba Euro IV-capable emissions benches and CVS (Constant Volume Sampling)
* PC VETS software
* Horiba Particulate Dilution Tunnel and sampling unit
* Micro soot sensor
* FEV FEVER FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy) fast response analyser for up to 30 different emission components simultaneously
* Combustion analyser / pressure indicating system, with:

o Combustion sound prediction
o Real time knock analysis
o Rotational and torsional vibration analysis
o Cold start functionality

* Dynamometer

o AVL-manufactured all-wheel drive 48" dyno
o MMI control system (man/machine interface)
o Max. speed: 200 km/h
o Max. power: 300 kW
o Inertia range: 453kg – 5,443kg
o Wheelbase: 2032mm – 4699mm
o Wheel track: 914mm – 2743m

You Yangs Proving Ground

Opened in 1965, Ford Australia's You Yangs Proving Ground (YYPG) was established to improve the durability of the original US-design Falcon product and make it better suited to the unique Australian conditions.

The 2,300 acre (930 hectare) facility features more than 80 kilometres of test surfaces and contains full capability for car and light truck durability testing, which has been correlated to global proving grounds.

The PG facility, located at the You Yangs southwest of Melbourne, is set within a unique eco system – Western Basalt Plains Grassy Woodlands – and has a Landcare team on site to assist with managing the natural resources of the area. There is also a wildlife management plan in place for eastern grey kangaroos.

It is the base for key vehicle attribute teams within Ford's Product Development group, who conduct activities for:

* Vehicle level attributes
o Target setting
o Development
o Calibration
o Validation
o Sign-off

* Durability

o Structural
o Powertrain
o Corrosion
o Fit for purpose

* Crash development
o Structure

* Emission compliance


Last edited by russellw; 04-11-2012 at 12:05 PM..

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