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Ford's Digital Fusion

This fall, the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Lincoln Zephyr will go into production at Ford's assembly plant in Hermosillo [Mexico] Stamping & Assembly Plant.

This fall, the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Lincoln Zephyr will go into production at Ford's assembly plant in Hermosillo [Mexico] Stamping & Assembly Plant. But this won't be the first time they'll be built. They've already been produced numerous times—virtually. According to Janice Goral, manager, Ford's Virtual Build Center, this is the first program that has applied digital tools throughout, from design, through engineering, and testing for manufacturing so that the development time is faster, associated costs are lower, and the build quality will be better. She estimates that they're going to reduce issues that can have financial ramifications of $5,000 to $500,000 by some 10%. What's more, the digital simulation is also focused on identifying ergonomic issues before actual workers can be affected by them. The objective, says Kellie Sinclair, ergonomics supervisor, Virtual Engineering, is to create "processes anyone can work at"—be it a 5th- or 95th-percentile woman or man. One of the things that's involved in this simulation of product and process is the handling of various types of data, with the stylists and designers working with I-deas from UGS (www.ugs.com) and CATIA from Dassault Systemes (www.3ds.com); tooling and equipment suppliers and Ford internal personnel working with a proprietary Ford system that, says Pesi Sanjana, body supervisor, Virtual Engineering, makes use of standard object components (e.g., weld guns; robots); and Tecnomatix simulation software of equipment and people also from UGS. Goral says that they transform the data into a neutral format, JT (see Heavyweight Collaboration Through Lightweight JT , March 2004), so that it can be more readily handled. While Ford has been operating the Virtual Build Center since 2002 and has been using digital design and simulation tools for much longer, the Fusion program is the first to be digital end-to-end.—GSV