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Ford New In-House Seats

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The new Ford F-Family seats

Months before the first seat was built and installed in the new Ford Flex crossover, a team of engineers working with sophisticated computers had designed and virtually perfected the seat from the comfort of their desks.

A trio of Ford engineers – Qin Pan, Joanna Rakowska and Michael Medoro – used sophisticated computer simulation technology to ensure that drivers and passengers of new-generation vehicles like the upcoming 2009 Ford Flex feel a minimum of vibration and just the right amount of road input.

The three Ford engineers will issue a technical paper this week at the 2008 SAE World Congress in Detroit that details the lengths Ford went to optimize the comfort and quality of the new Ford F-Family seats debuting in the Flex.

“We took real-world road surface data and programmed it into our engineering model,” said Pan, the project leader. “This allowed us to optimize the design of mass dampers in the seats to counter these predicted road inputs earlier in the development than ever before, so that when we get to physical prototype stage, we can concentrate on fine-tuning rather than designing the damping system.”

The breakthroughs mean Ford can apply its learnings across a wide range of products. The new F-Family seat architecture debuts in the Ford Flex but will eventually be featured across a range of vehicles from the Ford Focus to the new Ford F-150.

“We set up a comfort DNA range that spans from small cars through our trucks,” Brown said. “For instance, Mustang buyers tend to want a little more road input in their seats, but other buyers tend to want more isolation, and that’s been our target for the Ford Flex to reflect the quiet, refinement and luxury of its interior. The character of the seat is the same; just the intensity of the character is different.”

For its new F-Family front seat design, Ford bucked the trend of outsourcing seat design and instead created a dedicated Ford seat engineering team within the company’s Body Engineering division.

This move has delivered major quality, comfort and economy-of-scale benefits, reflecting the fact that seats are the second most expensive system in a vehicle behind powertrains.

“As we’ve brought this engineering back in house, we’ve brought a team over from vehicle engineering and put them inside the seat organization to focus on enhancing comfort,” said Jerry Brown, chief engineer for the new F-Family seats. “We tune the seats to the character of the vehicle based on an established comfort DNA.”

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Ford New In-House Seats
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