Wednesday 5 February 2014

Ford to switch more pick-ups to ally by 2017

Ford has invested billions of dollars in engineering and manufacturing resources to develop its thirteenth-generation F-Series, which enters production in 3Q14 at Dearborn and Kansas City according to the Society of Automotive Engineers, (SAE).

The F-150 is the initial step in a larger strategy by Ford to convert all of its full-size trucks, including F-250/350 and the large Ford and Lincoln SUVs built in Louisville, to primarily aluminium construction by 2017, the engineers said.

The plan brings a high degree of process and tooling commonality to Ford’s three U.S. truck plants, which is expected to yield significant economies of scale to the truck production.

The high-volume programmeme is a success for Alcoa and Novelis, the two aluminium suppliers at launch who will supply the programmeme from their Davenport, Iowa, and Oswego, New York, facilities, respectively, according to Lindsay Brooke writing in the SAE’s Automotive Engineering.

The trucks are said to contain about 1,000 lb (454 kg) of aluminium, including an all-new aluminium cylinder heads that feature water-cooled integrated exhaust manifold for the 2.7-litre engine code-named Nano.

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. The composite CGI/aluminium block saves weight while providing strength where it’s needed most for durability.

“Previous engine block design choices were high strength or compact or lightweight,” said Ed Waszczenko, Ford’s 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.”

Ford 2.7-litre EcoBoost  gasoline engine with CGI/aluminium block
Aluminium is used also for the main case for Ford’s 6R80 six-speed automatic transmission, and various suspension components. The new V6, equipped with stop-start, will be available on 2WD models only.

The F-Series remains Ford’s top breadwinner, accounting for 35% of the company’s North American revenue, according to IHS Automotive. Sales for the 2013 model year amounted to 763,402 units, the most since 2006. It has been America’s top-selling vehicle for 32 years.

Another contributor is frame-supplier Metalsa, which will produce the F-150’s all-new, high-alloy-content (approximately 70%) steel ladder frame that itself is 80 lb (36 kg) lighter than the 2014 frame. Magna is understood to have the Super Duty frame business.

The F-150’s frame employs unique new closed-section front rails made using the roll-forming process.

Roll forming a critical structure like the major load-bearing area of a truck’s ladder frame gives it capability to handle “all the load cases of axial strength and stiffness as well as torsional rigidity and bending strength,” at moderate cost with minimal scrap, explained Ron Krupitzer, vice president of automotive applications at the Steel Market Development Institute.

The trucks will use steel door beams for side-impact protection, high-strength steel bumpers, and cast-iron steering knuckles.

                                                Rivet-bonded alloys

About half of the F-150’s body stampings will be in solution-heat-treated 6xxx-T4 (known as 6000 series) alloy sheet in various gauges, favoured for its dent-resistance, formability, and class-A suitability, supplier sources reported. Lower cost 5xxx-series sheet, a non-heat-treat alloy popular for structures and other non-class-A applications, will provide about 40% of the body stiffness. The body includes up to 70 lb (32 kg) of aluminium extrusions.

Among the various joining solutions in the new truck's body are “many, many lineal feet” of robotically applied adhesive, used to join the cab and box structures, with approximately 4,000 rivets replacing about 7,000 spot welds. Engineers said the rivets provide some shear strength (adhesives are weak in this area) while serving to locate the parts for the bonding process.

Potential galvanic-corrosion issues between the aluminium front-end assembly, cab, cargo box, and the steel frame will be mitigated by various methods, including special coatings.

Although the 2015 F-150 programmeme has reportedly been delayed two months due to re-tooling issues in the plants (all of which will receive new body shops and significantly upgraded paint areas), the Ford engineering sources report no major challenges as the company prepares for production in nine months.

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