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Detroit Free Press

Ford builds a Fusion virtually

Computer models test design through assembly

April 15, 2005

BY JAMIE BUTTERS
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

Workers who install consoles in the Ford Fusion sedan won't get so worn out, thanks to the digital counterparts that went before them.

Almost any man or woman would have the strength and flexibility to install the unit between the two front seats. But securing it into place was likely to make someone too tired, too quickly.

Ford figured this out with computers that model the design of every part of the car, as well as the plant and an array of human forms.

The company showed the system, which aims to cut costs and improve quality, to a handful of reporters Thursday morning.

Like other automakers, Ford Motor Co. has used computerized models for a decade, said Janice Goral, manager of Ford's Virtual Build Center.

But this is the first time the company has used virtual engineering on all aspects of the vehicle's manufacturing from design to launch. The Fusion -- and the mechanically similar Lincoln Zephyr and Mercury Milan -- is to be built in Hermosillo, Mexico, starting this year.

"With these tools, we're able to do these tests without putting any workers at risk," said Kellie Sinclair, virtual engineering ergonomics supervisor.

As a result, Ford redesigned how to attach the Fusion console.

And no computers were hurt in the making of this virtual car.
 
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