From 3D Printing to Robots: Ford’s New $45 Million Improved Manufacturing Facility Brings the Future to Present Day

From advanced 3D printing machines to virtual reality, Ford is on its way to creating futuristic technologies and speeding up manufacturing innovation at the new Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Michigan.

At this facility, Ford plans on revamping prototypes which include 3D printing, augmented and virtual reality, robotics and more technological advancements before sampled creations to auto plants throughout the world. Ford has invested $45 million dollars into 100 high-end technology experts and their advanced, critical tools in order to support the company’s drive to create the highest quality vehicles. 

Currently, Ford is leading the future of 3D printing in the automotive industry, which assists in improving overall car quality from the inside-out. The Advanced Manufacturing Center holds 23 3D printing machines and is collaborating with 10 3D manufacturing organizations. Working with these companies allows these experts to produce applications with various materials such as sand, nylon, and carbon. One specific application that is currently under way will save Ford more than $2 million. 

There are already 3D printed parts in the manufacturing and production of Ford vehicles. The Shelby Mustang GT500, which was revealed at the North American International Auto Show, has two 3D printed brake parts, and the F-150 Raptor which is built for China includes a 3D printed interior part as well. 

Virtual reality is usually thought of when using video games, but Ford has been utilizing this technology to assist in simulating and designing assembly lines to create millions of vehicles. Experts have also been using virtual reality to develop customized experiences in augmented and virtual reality to permit Ford manufacturing teams to collaborate in plants across the globe. 

Ford has made critical improvements these past few years regarding collaborative robots, which are also known as cobots. Ford currently has 100 of them in 24 Ford plants around the world. 

“While we are increasing our use of collaborative robots, we strongly believe there is a need for both people and robots,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of Global Operations. “People are better at doing certain jobs, while robots are able to perform certain tasks, including those that are ergonomically taxing for people.”

These robots are little and can work safely by people, such as the cobot in Livonia Transmission Plant which assists in the production line. These smaller cobots also help Ford cut down costs by decreasing the demand for pricey safety cages that larger robots need.

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