Virtual paint tool improves vehicle corrosion protection

Motorsport
Virtual paint tool improves vehicle corrosion protection

Ford Motor Company is leading the development of a virtual paint simulation tool called EPD (Electro-coat Paint Deposition) that helps ensure vehicle body panels are adequately coated with electro-coat, the polymeric coating that protects vehicles against corrosion.  Developed in conjunction with Norwegian supplier Bergen Software Services International (BSSI), EPD is an industry-first full-vehicle virtual tool that simulates electro-coat coverage, giving Ford engineers the ability to modify vehicle design and/or application parameters in a virtual environment for better corrosion protection. The virtual testing eliminates the need to run expensive prototype vehicles through the assembly line to verify electro-coat coverage, saving time and manufacturing costs. In addition, Ford engineers can use EPD to optimize the electro-coat application on existing products, further improving current-model corrosion protection and quality.   “With EPD, full vehicle simulations can be done in one week or less with relatively inexpensive computers using unique methods developed by BSSI,” said Janice Tardiff, a technical specialist at Ford’s Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn. “The speed of the simulations allows us to optimize vehicle attributes during the design cycle and avoid costly late changes to vehicle programs.” John Dandar, Paint Engineering Virtual Manufacturing supervisor, agrees. “Currently, designs are reviewed for electro-coat coverage based on engineering judgment and guidelines. EPD allows sheet metal designs to be validated early in the product development process, eliminating the need for prototype testing and late changes. The tool can also be used to optimize the design of electro-coat tanks.” The full EPD simulation environment gives Ford engineers the opportunity to review design factors such as part geometry and access hole placement for potential coating problems. The tool can also predict electro-coat film thickness across a body-in-white, including for recessed regions.  Rob Starbowski, corrosion protection engineering supervisor at Ford’s Central Lab, currently verifies adequate electro-coat coverage with physical prototypes. He has been conducting preliminary tests with EPD to compare results. “Early simulations using EPD are very comparable to physical prototypes,” said Starbowski. “We can run the simulation, see where coating is lacking, for example, and verify a tooling modification to correct the issue without the need for a prototype – and long before a die reaches the manufacturing plant.” Innovative Paint Technologies Ford is in the process of implementing EPD across all North American vehicle programs, with initial launches taking place on the 2010 Ford Fusion, Ford Taurus and 2011 Ford Explorer programs. According to Tardiff, the tool represents the first in a series of virtual aids that Ford expects to utilize to improve vehicle paint quality, reduce the reliance on prototype vehicle builds, reduce manufacturing costs, and to continue to improve environmental manufacturing performance. Ford is already leading the industry when it comes to innovative more eco-friendly paint technologies, utilizing a 3-wet, high solids-based paint formulation, which produces fewer volatile organic compounds and carbon dioxide emissions than water-borne and medium solids-based paints currently used in the industry.

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