Motor Co. has developed a new manufacturing technology that has
the potential to reduce costs and delivery time for sheet metal
parts needed in small quantities.
Freeform Fabrication Technologyis especially helpful for
fast prototyping, the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker said.
The new machinery can
clamp a piece of sheet metal around its edges and form it into
a three-dimensional shape using two stylus-type tools working
in unison on opposite sides of the sheet metal blank.
receive the computer-assisted design data for the part,
computer-generated tool paths control the fabricating machine
to form the sheet metal part into its final shape to the
required dimensional tolerances and surface finish.
"As we forge ahead
with cutting-edge technologies like flexible body shops,
robotics, 3D printing and others, we can build better products
more efficiently," said John Fleming, executive vice president
for global manufacturing and labor affairs.
processes are energy-intensive and often take several months
for the first part to move from concept to production, Ford
said. While such methods remain efficient for high-volume
stamping, flexibility at reduced cost is required for
The Ford technology
eliminates geometric-specific forming dies and can deliver a
formed part in three days from the time the design parameters
Once fully developed,
the technology will help improve the vehicle research and
development process, allowing for more flexibility in quickly
creating parts for prototypes and concept cars. Currently,
creating a prototype die can take six to eight weeks, and
developing a full prototype vehicle usually takes several
months and up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Free-form
fabricating could produce sheet metal parts for prototypes in
Ford expects the technology will have broad applications
inside and outside the auto industry.