Monday 13 January 2014

New materials key to Ford’s 2015 F-150

Exactly one month ago today, on 13 December, we asked: “Will Ford respond before Ram wins 3 times?”

Now we have the answer. For while the tabloid media concentrate on the Ford F-150 pick-up truck’s LED lighting, something much more important is happening underneath this ground-breaking vehicle.

For Ford has responded to our question with an engine to knock out any power unit Chrysler has on its stocks; namely the new EcoBoost 2.7-litre gasoline engine with a string of new technology additions.

The new EcoBoost reinforces Ford’s other light-weighting measures for the F-150 pick-up truck, most notably the use of aluminium, high strength steels and compacted graphite iron (CGI), already a well-known “new” material in Europe with Ford’s Dagenham Engine Plant in the UK and the Chihuahua Engine Plant (CHEP), Mexico. Both plants produce CGI engines – but these are CGI vee diesel engines.

Mexico could be the source of the CGI gasoline engine blocks through Tupy Mexico Saltillo SA de CV. For on 16 November 2011, Grupo Industrial Saltillo S.A.B. de C.V., Saltillo, Mexico, announced it had reached an agreement to sell its iron block and head business, including Cifunsa Diesel and Technocast, to Tupy SA of Joinville, Brazil. And Tupy has a close association with the Swedish technology company SinterCast which specialises in supplying the latest CGI process control technology. Ford and SinterCast are long-term partners.

“We have reached an agreement with Tupy to sell the blocks and heads business that are produced on horizontal molding lines,” noted Luis Arenas, strategic planning manager for Grupo Industrial Saltillo’s foundry sector at the time.

Meanwhile, Ford claims a unique connection with its own F-150 customers.

"We do have a unique connection with our customers," noted Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s executive vice president and president of The Americas. "Time and again, F-150 has delivered the tougher, smarter features they want along with the capabilities they need for work or play. We build our trucks to their high standards."

In designing the backbone of the F-150, Ford engineers improved the truck's signature fully boxed ladder frame. It is all-new with more high-strength steel than ever – making it stronger and lighter. High-strength, military-grade, aluminium alloys – already used in aerospace, commercial transportation, energy and many other rugged industries – are used throughout the F-150 body for the first time, improving dent and ding resistance and also saving weight. Overall, up to 700lb in weight is said to have been saved, helping the F-150 tow more, haul more, accelerate quicker and stop shorter, and contributing to efficiency.

"More than ever before, customers want a truck that is a dependable partner, mobile office and a go-anywhere workshop," said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, global product development. "To meet the needs of our truck customers, we created smart new features and a whole new approach to using advanced materials and engines to improve capability and efficiency."

Ford claims the 2015 Ford F-150 is the strongest and most durable F-150 ever. Before it goes on sale, it will have been torture-tested in labs, at Ford proving grounds and in the hands of some of Ford's most demanding truck customers for more than 10 million miles.

Customers using the F-150 for construction, mining and utilities have tested and helped prove out its high-strength aluminium-alloy cargo box.

A disguised new Ford F-150 even raced in the Baja 1000 proven EcoBoost 2.7-litre V6, where it earned the distinction of completing all 883 gruelling miles while some other purpose-built race vehicles could not.

To perform in these challenging conditions, the frame uses high-strength steel rated up to 70,000lb/in2 – stronger than the steel found in some competitors' heavy-duty pickup truck frames. Eight through-welded cross-members provide increased stiffness, while staggered rear outboard shocks provide greater stability.

The high-output twin-turbo 2.7-litre EcoBoost V6 features an entirely new design that delivers power and performance in a stronger, smarter package.

“The F-150’s proven 3.5-litre EcoBoost has become the industry benchmark for advanced and efficient truck engines,” added Nair. “We’ve applied lessons learned from the 3.5-litre EcoBoost to the new 2.7-litre EcoBoost, but with new technologies that make this more efficient engine perform like a larger mid-range V8.” 
                                         Smart technology

Ford claims the 2.7-litre EcoBoost engine features the “first use” of a compacted graphite iron cylinder block in a gasoline engine, the same material used in Ford’s 6.7-litre Power Stroke turbo-diesel V8 engine built at CHEP.
he composite CGI/aluminium block saves weight while providing strength where it is needed most for durability. 

“Previous engine block design choices were high strength or compact or lightweight,” said Ed Waszczenko, engine systems supervisor. “We wanted to go further with the 2.7-litre EcoBoost and design an engine with compact structure and high strength and light weight.” 

It seems the foundry supplying the CGI vee block castings cannot be named although on 31 October 2013 SinterCast, which supplies CGI process technology to foundries like Tupy SA with foundries in Brazil and Mexico, announced that: With the order of a new System 3000 Plus for high-volume cylinder block series production, SinterCast has achieved a third consecutive record year for new installation commitments.” 

The company added: “The new order, which is planned for installation and commissioning during December, will be used for the production of Compacted Graphite Iron cylinder blocks, with the start of series production scheduled for January 2014. At the request of the customer, the foundry identity cannot be disclosed at this time.”

In addition to a new block material, the 2.7-litre EcoBoost also features all-new engine logic that adjusts operating parameters on the fly to provide the best efficiency and performance for the environment and workload.

Other smart new features of the 2.7-litre EcoBoost include: First use of fracture split main-bearing caps, which create a superior fit between the cap and engine block for reduced crankshaft friction to help improve efficiency; all-new aluminium cylinder heads with water-cooled integrated exhaust manifolds; variable displacement oil pump to reduce internal engine friction to improve fuel economy; intake and exhaust variable cam timing to improve torque while helping lower emissions; and lightweight, durable composite intake manifold.

Other developments include: cooling jets placed beneath the pistons spray oil on the pistons to help lower operating temperatures; piston connecting rods that use an offset I-beam that provides strength to manage peak engine power levels while reducing weight for better responsiveness; and a cartridge-style oil filter that is integrated into top of the engine for easy service.

“No one has ever built a six-cylinder engine like this,” boasted Nair. “It combines a host of advanced technologies found throughout the industry to create one of the most technically advanced and efficient engines ever designed.”
                                          Tested tough

Pushing production engines to the limit is not new for Ford. Following in the footsteps of the 3.5-litre EcoBoost torture test, Ford labs and the 2013 Baja 1000 provided torturous environments to prove the 2.7-litre EcoBoost’s capability and durability. 

The engine, which powered a disguised all-new Ford F-150 specially designed to look like a current F-150, raced Baja in stock form with no additional oil coolers or radiators typically added for multiday off-road races.

The 2.7-litre EcoBoost race truck finished the gruelling 883-mile event – called by many the toughest Baja 1000 in decades – without any issues. The only part changed during the event was the stock air filter.

In addition to its "flawless Baja 1000 shakedown", the all-new 2.7-litre EcoBoost V6 has surpassed Ford’s extensive and brutal testing regimen, including over 1,000 consecutive extreme temperature loops that quickly bring the engine from -25°F to 235°F – the equivalent of driving a vehicle nonstop from Death Valley to Arctic Circle 350 times.

Structural fatigue tests that run the engine at full load for more than 17 straight days – the majority of the time at peak torque and power.

The engine’s ability to withstand repeated stop/starts was validated with more than 900 test hours simulating 240,000 starts and stops, while more than 800 hours of towing and unloaded-driving scenarios across the entire engine power range were completed using gasoline-ethanol mixtures up to E20 and intentionally degraded engine oil.

Boosting the 2.7-litre EcoBoost’s fuel efficiency is the debut of standard Auto Start-Stop technology in the F-150. This technology, specially tuned for truck customers, shuts off the engine when the vehicle is at a stop – except when towing or in four-wheel drive – to give drivers power on demand when they need it most. When the brake is released, the engine restarts quickly.
                                         Proven family

In addition to the all-new 2.7-litre EcoBoost, the new F-150 will feature a complete line-up of powerplants to let customers tailor the nation’s best-selling truck to their needs. There is for example the all-new naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 and an improved 5.0-litre V8.

The all-new 3.5-litre V6 replaces the current 3.7-litre V6, and uses twin independent variable camshaft timing to provide a flat torque curve and improved efficiency as the highly capable new standard engine in the new F-150.

The 5-litre V8 returns with improved cylinder breathing and new mid-lock variable cam timing to improve fuel economy while maintaining its tow-friendly torque.

Sales of Ford F-150 with the 3.5-litre EcoBoost – launched less than three years ago – have already topped 425,000 units in the US and account for 35 percent of all F-150 sales.  

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