As it can be easily assembled and dismounted, Ford said its new on-the-go wind tunnel would help its engineers test cars anywhere it was needed.
Ford said that it has figured out a way to improve quality of its cars, by developing the world’s first mobile aeroacoustic wind tunnel, a patent-pending test system that allows its engineers to save time and identify faster quality problems triggered by aerodynamic flaws. Ford’s new wind tunnel debuts at Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan, but it can be moved around at any of automaker’s sites to check vehicles right after they are rolling out the assembly lines. “This project was born from a desire to be the best when it comes to controlling and limiting the cabin noise customers are so sensitive to,” Bill Gulker, Ford’s wind noise core supervisor, said. “And our new mobile wind tunnel saves our engineers time and increases productivity.”
While full-sized aerodynamics labs specialized in advanced aerodynamic and aeroacoustic development cost around 50 million dollars each, the new on-site wind noise facility is at a fraction of that price. Similar in concept to the real deal, the mobile system is built inside two 53-foot shipping containers. Each includes aeroacoustic vanes and internal ducting for a controlled airflow, while two 16-bladed, six-foot-diameter ducted fans – each powered by a 250-horsepower electric motor – deliver a maximum blast of 80-mph wind.
A third 40-foot container housing a small office, power distribution and controls, is placed nearby and data and power cabling are connected between the containers. Ford said the compact tunnel can be broken down within a day, then reassembled where it is need it to be ready for testing within hours. “Now, we’re able to detect even the most subtle noises,” Gulker said. “We can identify an area in need of improvement, have key people gather, communicate quickly, and resolve the issue without delay.”