Dec 5, 2018 | By Thomas

Ford Motor is making a big bet on futuristic technologies to help speed manufacturing innovation. The company has spent $45-million on its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford Township, Michigan, just west of Detroit.

Ford conducted media tours of the new Advanced Manufacturing Center on Tuesday. Approximately 100 manufacturing experts work at the development hub for cutting-edge manufacturing technologies, including 3D printing, augmented and virtual reality and robotics.

As Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of Global Operations explains, “More than 100 years ago, Ford created the moving assembly line, forever changing how vehicles would be mass produced. Today, we are reinventing tomorrow’s assembly line, tapping technologies once only dreamed of on the big screen, to increase our manufacturing efficiency and quality.”

The Advanced Manufacturing Center has 23 3D printers and is working with 10 additive manufacturing companies. The center is testing 3D printers from Stratasys, HP, EOS and other vendors to adapt for vehicle manufacturing. This allows Ford experts to develop applications with different materials – from sand to nylon powder to carbon. One application currently under development has the potential to save the company more than $2 million, according to the company.

There are 3D printed parts in the manufacturing and production of Ford vehicles. Ford said the Shelby Mustang GT500, to be introduced at the North American International Auto Show in January, will have two 3D printed brake parts. The F-150 Raptor built for China will include a 3D printed interior part.

3D printed parts also help employees improve vehicle quality. The company said its Assembly line workers at Michigan Assembly Plant, where Ford builds the Ranger pickup, use five different 3D printed tools. These tools played a critical role in the launch of Ranger, removing weeks from an already tight timeline and ensuring quality is built in – from the first vehicle that rolled off the line.

Ford, which purchased the third 3D printer ever made in 1988, now has 90 3D printers globally producing parts and tools. On the shop floor, workers team with advanced manufacturing experts to identify ways to save the company time and money, including how to 3D print replacement parts to keep lines running instead of waiting for parts that can take weeks to be fabricated.

Ford is also developing augmented and virtual reality (VR) systems at the site to help it simulate and design assembly lines to build vehicles. These technologies allow Ford manufacturing teams to work collaboratively in plants around the world and enable people on different continents to work in the same virtual experience simultaneously.

The center also has collaborative robots, or cobots, which are smaller and can work safely alongside people, without protective cages. These cobots, made by Kuka, Univeral Robots and FANUC, also help Ford reduce costs and allow the company to identify and address potential production issues before the cobots are installed in plants.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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