Engineers at Ford are developing new ways to hide its prototypes in plain sight using modern camouflage designs and techniques.
Gone are the days when unsightly black vinyl was the only way to hide a vehicle. This heavy and difficult to apply cladding is used now in only a small percentage of testing, as Ford employs more effective methods for concealing its vehicles throughout product development.
“While design is the fourth most important reason for purchase in the industry overall, it is number two, behind only fuel economy, for Ford,” said Dave Fish, senior vice president, expert services at MaritzCX, which conducted this new vehicle customer study. “It’s not surprising Ford goes to extraordinary lengths to try to keep the wraps on its designs as long as possible.”
Primarily, Ford uses vinyl stickers with patterns that trick the eye to cover its vehicles. The stickers’ modern patterns create an optical illusion that hides body lines and makes it difficult to see details. Such techniques result in obscure photographs, allowing Ford to not only hide its products from spy photographers, but to preserve its confidential designs and sustain its competitive edge.
Take a look at the new camouflage process in action (click here).
John LaQue, Ford section supervisor, prototype planning and build, said, “The work we’re doing is crucial to Ford staying competitive in a constantly evolving industry. When we make it to a reveal without a photo surfacing of a non-camouflaged car, we have all done our jobs.”
Each type of camouflage serves a purpose through various stages of development. Unlike vinyl cladding, vinyl stickers are universal – they don’t have to be made specifically for each vehicle. Stickers are stuck on the car in no particular order, are quicker to install and more durable, plus they allow for more accurate testing as they don’t add as much weight. The stickers don’t trap heat, and nor do they so dramatically affect the aerodynamics of the vehicle.
Ford’s camouflage team can even change the shape of a vehicle to further mislead spies. The use of faux body panels can drastically change the look of a car, so an observer doesn’t know what the real vehicle looks like. Adding length or height is a key misdirection used to keep the true dimensions of a vehicle under wraps.
For a feature on spy photography see the March issue of Automotive Testing Technology International.
Elsewhere, Ford is using mobile four poster climate and road simulators, which can be transported all over the world, to minimize squeaks and rattles in the all-new 2017 F-Series Super Duty.
In its labs, Ford puts prototype vehicles through their paces on all manner of simulated terrain and road surfaces, as well as in extreme humidity and temperatures ranging from -20°F to 120°F.
Aside from full-vehicle testing, Ford also performs component-level testing to help limit squeaks and rattles. For instance, the company subjects instrument panels to shake testing on its transportable instrument panel sound testing evaluation rigs.
Watch the system in action here.
March 3, 2016