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.
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
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.
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.
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.”