Ford Using Mobile Wind Tunnels to Test Vehicle Quietness

A faster, easier way to check for problems with new cars

To ensure its cars are as quiet as possible, Ford is now using “mobile” wind tunnels built inside shipping containers. The company says it’s a faster, more cost-effective way of making sure newly assembled cars have the best sound insulation possible.

Ford engineers typically pull production cars off the assembly line and perform verification checks, including sound-deadening ones to check the car’s quietness. But normal wind tunnels used for automotive testing are expensive to build and operate, meaning it’s pricey to run a completed vehicle through the test. And because Ford only has wind tunnels in certain locations (including Allen Park, Michigan), shipping cars from factories to the wind tunnel adds a lot of time and expense to the test process.

Ford’s solution is a “mobile” wind tunnel built from shipping containers. The modular nature of the design means the entire assembly can be disassembled within a day, transported by truck to its next location, and reassembled within a few hours. The containers hold two 250-hp electric fans and various ductwork, allowing the system to create sustained wind speeds up to 80 mph.

Though the mobile wind tunnels have fewer sensors and less data-gathering capability than a traditional one, Ford says it still allows the company to use sensitive audio equipment to check cabin insulation close to where a car is built. The result is quieter cars delivered to customers.

“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,” Ford wind noise core supervisor Bill Gulker said in a statement. “We can identify an area in need of improvement, have key people gather, communicate quickly, and resolve the issue without delay.”

The first of these mobile wind tunnels is in use at the Ford factory in Flat Rock, Michigan.

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