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Ford design virtually perfect

Virtually there: Ford has showcased the latest updates to its high-tech virtual environment system at Broadmeadows in Melbourne's outer north.

Advanced technology at Ford's tech centre can see through a new design

Ford logo22 Aug 2014

By IAN PORTER

FORD Australia’s product development centre can now ensure a prototype vehicle is perfect, even before the prototype is built.

The company's new Ford immersive Virtual Environment (FiVE) – which is an upgrade of the virtual environment system it installed in 2012 at its Broadmeadows, Victoria site – will allow designers to sit in, inspect and critique a new design, even though it may not yet exist.

It is one of only two such setups in the Ford world, with the other being in the company's home base at Detroit.

The blacked-out room in the technical centre is fitted with 19 motion tracking cameras, some very powerful computers and a monster 84 inch (2.1 metre) high resolution screen.

By donning a special headset fitted with little balls on sticks that the motion tracking cameras can follow, an engineer can sit inside a car that only exists as a computer-aided design data set.

The big screen allows other engineers in the room or in other countries to see what the headset wearer is seeing and participate in the inspection of the design.

The system allows engineers and designers to inspect their work before expensive clay models and metal prototypes are made, ironing out small oversights and glitches before the big money is invested.

Journalists at Ford’s Innovations for Millions design and technology presentation in Melbourne were able to sit in a virtual 2015 Ford Mustang pony car not due for release until next year.

The Ford engineers were entertained as journalists fitted with the headset stumbled around the Mustang, trying to avoid barking their shins on the imaginary mudguards as they moved around to obtain a 3D view of the new model.

At one stage, a journalist with the headset on stuck his head through the virtual bonnet and the big screen, giving viewers a detailed view of the oil and water galleries in the engine block.

However, it was not a complete data set in the computer.

One enterprising scribe tried looking under the rear bumper to see what the independent rear suspension looked like, only to find there was no driveshaft and no differential fitted to the virtual car.

All he could see was the inside of the rear wheels and an empty bell housing on the back end of the motor.

That data had been removed from the data set to preserve the secrets of the Mustang’s first independent rear suspension for a few more weeks.

The Mustang will be released in the American autumn, but will not arrive in Australian Ford dealerships until 2015.

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