Ford debuts first mobile aeroacoustic wind tunnel
The mobile testing facility is built inside two 53-foot shipping containers.
One of the leading purchasing considerations for car buyers is cabin noise. Recognizing this, Ford has developed a mobile aeroacoustic wind tunnel to help ensure quietest cabins possible.
This patent-pending test system allows for engineers to identify sources for unwanted wind noise fairly early in the production process and develop solutions sooner.
The mobile tunnel is able to produce wind speeds up to 80 mph at one Ford plant, then easily be broken down and then reassembled at any other location. This new tunnel benefits Ford wind noise engineers, allowing them to increase productivity by reducing test cycles from weeks to hours.
“This project was born from a desire to be the best when it comes to controlling and limiting the cabin noise customers are so sensitive to,” said Bill Gulker, Ford wind noise core supervisor. “And our new mobile wind tunnel saves our engineers time and increases productivity. It’s a fine example of the innovation mindset we’re trying to incorporate into everything we do.”
Traditional, full-sized aerodynamics labs are fitted with the latest in sensitive measuring and analysis equipment and often come with a hefty price tag of approximately $50 million.
However, Ford’s new mobile option is a fraction of the cost. The system was designed to include a steady stream of highway-speed wind but includes fewer large and sensitive instruments that are found in the full aero lab. High-tech, in-cabin sensor like the Aachen head and Noise Vision can still be used.
The concept for this new mobile facility is similar to that of a full-scale wind tunnel laboratory. It is built inside two 53-foot shipping containers. Each includes aeroacoustic vanes and internal ducting to provide smooth, controlled airflow at the nozzle end of the machine, while two 16-bladed, six-foot-diameter ducted fans – each powered by a 250-horsepower electric motor – deliver a maximum blast of 80-mph wind. A series of doors around the containers ensure the sections remain secure during transport or storage.
The machine consists of the two main containers fastened together side by side on flat, level tarmac. In between, two roll-up doors are lifted, while doors on the front and back ends are opened to create the air intake and outlet nozzle. A third, 40-foot container – housing a small office, power distribution and controls – is placed nearby, and data and power cabling are connected between the containers.
This new system will allow Ford factories to pull more sample vehicles directly from the line and test them without delay and demonstrates Ford’a ability to develop productivity-enhancing out-of-the-box innovations.