Ford Using 3D Imaging to Improve F-Series Trucks

Jun 7th, 2013 | By | Category: Uncategorized

Ford engineers are using 3D mapping in what is believed to be the technology’s first application in the auto industry to better analyze rear axle parts of F-Series pickups during assembly, leading to a smoother, quieter ride for drivers of Ford trucks.

Similar to Google Earth, which uses three-dimensional imaging to map the world, Ford’s photogrammetric pattern reader (PPR) uses a pair of digital cameras to combine photos of the axle gears into a series of 3D pictures that are compared against an ideal computer model of the gears. Gears that don’t meet “Built Ford Tough” specifications are discarded.

“PPR technology is the next evolution in quality control for our commercial trucks,” said David Gravel, an engineer in Ford’s advanced manufacturing group. “While traditional, visual inspections of our axle gears ensure we’re delivering dependable, tough trucks to our customers, this new technology allows us to conduct our inspections faster, and at a level of detail the human eye just cannot discern.

“We constantly look for ways to go further for our customers,” he added, “and this system is one example of how we are making our trucks even more reliable.”

Ford’s system uses line scan cameras and infrared lights to turn a series of two-dimensional image slices into a single three-dimensional image for analysis. It was developed with Madison, Wis.-based Automated Vision and ATM Automation in Livonia, Mich.

“This technology is part of a trend where companies like Ford are using advanced automation to increase accuracy and consistency in production,” said Nan Zhang, a scientist at Automated Vision. “Computer vision is booming and is a very important topic for the next decade.”

Now in use at Ford’s Sterling Axle Plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., PPR stations are being rolled out in Ford plants worldwide.