Ford's New Freeform Fabrication Technology Shortens the Prototyping Process
July 10, 2013
Ford engineers have been experimenting with 3D printing to create prototypes for quite a long time; recently Ford engineers developed a highly flexible, new form of manufacturing technology which has the potential to reduce costs and delivery time for sheet metal parts which are needed for prototyping and low-volume production.
Ford has completely changed its process of creating custom parks; traditionally it takes six to eight weeks to produce moulds for custom parts, however, they have developed a unique manufacturing process to form 3D shapes in hours. This patented process is called Ford Freedom Fabrication Technology (F3T); it is a process where a piece of sheet metal is clamped around its edges and formed into a 3D shape by 2 stylus tools on opposite sides of the sheet metal blank. Fords new prototyping machine functions similar to a digital 3D printer, after the CAD data of the part is created and received, the stylus of the machine follows a computer-generated path to form the sheet metal part into its final shape.
Once fully developed, Ford Freedom Fabrication Technology will allow for lower costs and ultrafast delivery times for prototypes - from conventional methods which takes up to 6 months to parts which can be developed within 3 business days.
Although F3T brings many benefits to manufacturers, as the technology is still in its early stages, the machine is not fast enough for mass production but rather for prototyping and low-volume production applications. The technology is expected to be applicable to applications outside of the automotive industry, including use in aerospace, defense, transportation and appliance industries.
The video below highlights the usages of Ford’s Freedom Fabrication Technology.