Ford Motor Co. has built a mobile aeroacoustic wind tunnel at its Flat Rock Assembly Plant that uses a patent-pending test system allowing for sources of unwanted wind noise in early production vehicles to be identified faster.
“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,” says Bill Gulker, wind noise core supervisor at Ford. “And our new mobile wind tunnel saves our engineers time and increases productivity.”
Gulker says Ford’s new mobile wind tunnel costs a fraction of the $50 million a full-sized lab costs, like the automaker’s main wind tunnel in Allen Park. He says because testing requires only a steady stream of highway-speed wind, many of the large and sensitive instruments of a full aero lab aren’t required.
With an on-site wind noise facility, he says Ford factories can pull more sample vehicles directly from the line and test them immediately.
“Now, we’re able to detect even the most subtle noises,” Gulker says. “We can identify an area in need of improvement, have key people gather, communicate quickly, and resolve the issue without delay.”
The system is built inside two 53-foot shipping containers, with wind speeds reaching up 80 miles per hour. It contains two 16-bladed, six-foot-diameter ducted fans — each powered by a 250-horsepower electric motor. He says the entire operation can be broken down within a day.