Ford Developing New Prototyping Technology

The research lab over at Ford Motor Company have developed a new technology called "Ford Freeform Fabrication Technology" (F3T) that will allow them to develop prototype parts in hours instead of months, and may allow customers to customize their vehicle's sheet metal.

Normally building sheet metal prototypes involves stamping of sheet metal into the desired shapes, which can take from two to six months and in many cases is as labor intensive as building everything required for the production vehicles. This can obviously be problematic when they start adding up development time and costs.

The new technology uses two stylus-like tools, controlled by Computer Aided Design (CAD) software to work on opposite ends of the sheet metal, similar to a digital printer, to form the sheet metal into it's final shape and give it the desired finish properties. This would potentially allow customers to customize portions of the sheet metal on the vehicles they are purchasing.

The technology is still in the works, but given that the other collaborators in the project include Boeing, MIT and the Department of Energy, it will just be a matter of time until It goes into production use.