CONTEXT / BACKGROUND:
Computational materials engineering is anything but simple. It involves analyzing the properties of metal, sometimes down to its very atoms, to determine how they will alter during the manufacturing process. At Ford, a blended team of engineers and scientists is using this approach to develop software models that predict when and how those changes will occur, and performs computer simulations that eliminate the need for physical tests. It’s such a complex field, in fact, that when Ford entered it back in the late 1990s, team members like John Allison were initially doubted before they were heralded as leaders in a new field in materials research.
Members of Ford’s Atoms to Engines team are highly regarded in the auto industry and beyond. Why? Because gaining that intimate knowledge of these materials – finding out how even a small change at microscopic levels can make a significant difference – can lead to major changes in the big picture. Such changes as lighter, durable, more fuel-efficient construction are precisely the elements behind Ford’s ascent to exceptional quality.
Computational materials engineering, in its most basic form, is about researching materials and structure, using that knowledge to build models, and predicting how vehicle parts will perform – even before they’re built.
In the beginning
The team has now branched out from powertrains to other aspects of manufacturing. The work of Allison’s team with magnesium enabled development of a lighter-weight liftgate for the 2010 Lincoln MKT. Using magnesium for this part – the largest magnesium die casting in the world – allowed for a 40 percent weight savings.
“Computational materials engineering is about blending engineering and science. Why is it worth it? Reduction of test time. Higher-quality parts. In other words, you’re getting the highest possible quality at the lowest possible cost.”
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 198,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.
Feb. 3, 2010