VALENCIA, Spain, Sept. 30, 2015 – Ostrich feathers are helping to enhance the smooth finish of Ford cars including the all-new Galaxy, Mondeo and S-MAX. Each vehicle produced at the company’s mega-plant in Valencia, Spain, is dusted with thousands of plumes before it is painted.
The use of ostrich feathers is among a range of quality processes at the plant where one of six high quality nameplates rolls off a single production line every 40 seconds. These also include the introduction of industry-first automotive manufacturing technologies designed to deliver premium quality vehicles and that include a digital camera system that identifies paint defects, an audio testing system, and a virtual rolling road test to evaluate advanced driver technologies.
Each female ostrich feather measures up to 76 centimetres in length, weighs less than 3 grams, and can last as long as five years. The system resembles a car-wash in construction and is designed to prevent static electricity from causing particles to stick to the vehicle. Dust is then extracted via a vacuum.
“Removing the tiniest speck of dust before vehicles are painted can significantly enhance a smooth finish. Through their unique construction and durability, ostrich feathers are perfect for picking up and holding tiny particles,” said Dirk Hölzer, chief paint engineer, Ford of Europe.
Ford has invested €2.3 billion since 2011 to expand and upgrade what is now one of the world’s most advanced, flexible and productive auto plants — on pace to build 400,000 units in 2015. Produced in Valencia are multiple body styles and derivatives of vehicles that include the S‑MAX sports-activity vehicle; the Galaxy people-mover; the Kuga SUV; the Transit Connect light commercial vehicle; the Tourneo Connect people-mover; and Mondeo wagon, five-door, and four-door models – including the Mondeo Hybrid, as well as the upscale Ford Mondeo Vignale. Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Mich., U.S., where the all-new Ford Mustang is produced, is among other Ford facilities worldwide to have introduced the use of ostrich feathers.
Each Ford Mondeo Vignale is hand-finished by six master craftspeople at the new state‑of‑the‑art Vignale Centre. The latest laser and camera technology supports the trained eye in closely examining every aspect of a Vignale vehicle from body shell and panel alignment to paint finish; altogether models undergo 100 additional quality checks
Passionate about precision and attention to detail, experts spend more than two hours hand‑polishing the paintwork to create the perfect high-gloss finish; and also carefully scrutinise the fine detailing and stitching of 40 individual laser-cut pieces of leather trim fitted to each seat.
“Our Valencia operation has become truly state of the industry in terms of flexibility, productivity and the innovation in manufacturing quality,” said Barb Samardzich, chief operating officer, Ford of Europe. “It’s incredible and virtually unprecedented to see a luxurious Ford Mondeo Vignale going down the same line with a Kuga SUV and Transit Connect commercial vehicle.”
A perfect finish
After a visit to the ostrich feather “car-wash” an innovative paint process applies primer, base and clear coats to each vehicle without the need for oven drying in between coats. This also has the benefit of reducing CO2 emissions from the process by an estimated 15-25 per cent. A corrosion‑resistant protective coating, a water-proof sealer, and a final coat of exterior paint are then applied before drying takes place at 180 C.
Even in the most closely-controlled environments, the vehicle-painting process can be affected by small variations in temperature, humidity, air and small particle movement.
Valencia was the first plant to introduce Ford’s patented Dirt in Paint Vision System that was developed with the support of the Polytechnic University of Valencia. The system, the first to
be introduced by a volume manufacturer, generates one composite image from 3,150 digital photographs taken under mobile fluorescent lighting. Specially developed software compares the image with a perfect template and highlights improvements that are addressed immediately.
“Complex shapes and angles can make the inspection of freshly painted bodywork difficult for the human eye. The Dirt in Paint Vision System highlights even the smallest anomalies and enables engineers to address them under controlled conditions,” Hölzer said.
Advanced production checks
Ford vehicles are subjected to exhaustive quality assessments at each of the 34 stages of an assembly process that incorporates 18,000 different components for the six model lines.
Quality inspection teams on the Customer Acceptance Line use precision hand-held tools and small electronic measuring devices to scrutinise every aspect of a vehicle – using “gap sticks” to check panel alignment, and velocity meters to check the force required to close doors.
Increasing numbers of drivers and passengers now enjoy audio streamed via Bluetooth from external devices such as smartphones. Ford has specifically developed an industry-first test to ensure that playback via voice-activated connectivity system SYNC meets the same customer expectations as audio enjoyed through the system’s own CD player and radio.
Engineers already optimise audio systems by testing with the use of a wide range of musical styles including bass-heavy hip-hop recordings. The new patented diagnostic system also plays back a full range of musical notes through the speakers via the auxiliary port and a wired connection. Should the in-cabin sensors detect any unexpected sounds then these are addressed by engineers before the vehicle progresses down the line.
“Listening habits are changing and our tests reflect that by making sure the experience for drivers and passengers is not compromised by the source of recording,” said Mark Galvin, quality assurance manager, Ford of Europe.
Every vehicle built at Valencia is driven on the “Rattle and Squeak” circuit – a 300-metre facility that helps engineers ensure everything sounds right inside the vehicle, and all components fit snugly and securely. Paintwork is again examined for dust particle entrapment, and the entire vehicle is blasted with 1.2 bar water pressure for several minutes to ensure all window and door seals fit perfectly.
A number of vehicles also are randomly chosen each day for more intensive testing on a purpose‑built test track. This includes an extended water test, and a special driving evaluation for all-wheel-drive vehicles.
Ford vehicles can be equipped with advanced technologies that support drivers, such as Lane Keeping Alert and Lane Keeping Aid systems. These systems are checked during a “virtual road test” inside the plant on a dynamometer, or rolling road.
Ford uses sophisticated materials and production techniques to deliver greater strength and improved safety with reduced weight and enhanced sustainability.
Precision laser-welding enables the use of advanced hydro-formed high strength steel and light-weight materials such as magnesium when creating aerodynamic vehicle structures. Weight‑savings of approximately 40 per cent compared to a traditional steel equivalent are possible.
In 2015, Ford has invested in a range of energy-saving programmes in Valencia, including new boiler and plant equipment. Introduction of new energy contracts and reduction of gas consumption at the plant is also saving 36,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.
Further energy-saving measures in Valencia are planned to include a system that recovers heat energy from the paint oven exhaust stacks and returns it as useful heat into the district water heating system.
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 195,000 employees and 66 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit www.corporate.ford.com.
Ford of Europeis responsible for producing, selling and servicing Ford brand vehicles in 50 individual markets and employs approximately 53,000 employees at its wholly owned facilities and approximately 68,000 people when joint ventures and unconsolidated businesses are included. In addition to Ford Motor Credit Company, Ford Europe operations include Ford Customer Service Division and 24 manufacturing facilities (16 wholly owned or consolidated joint venture facilities and 8 unconsolidated joint venture facilities). The first Ford cars were shipped to Europe in 1903 – the same year Ford Motor Company was founded. European production started in 1911.