Tour of Ford Product Development Center & Design Center

(Dearborn, MI) – While attending the 2012 North American International Auto Show by invite of Ford Motor Company, they provided 160 bloggers including myself a tour of their Product Development Center and Design Center in Dearborn. We got a rare glimpse on the inner workings of these centers that develop concepts and design cars. Some filming and photography were not permitted. As matter of fact, I was in the same building as the next generation Mustang. Apparently, that was hidden from the tour.

We gathered inside a rather historic rotunda of the PDC where Ford originally used it as a showroom to reveal new cars. This is where the Mustangs of the late 60’s would have been showcased on a turntable plus many other vehicles. It was the place to be for both media and employees to see what Ford has to offer. The Fusion design team was on hand for a “Innovate through Design” panel discussion responding to questions taken from the audience.

We attended several workshops and demonstrations. I saw the hood of a full-size clay model Fusion taking shape with a drill etching into the clay. The rest of the car looked very close to the real thing with plastic pieces affixed to the clay model. There were clay modelers on hand answering questions, and they even gave us hands-on experience sculpting clay models at their stations. I used a few of the tools to draw new lines and fill in holes and scratches on the Ford Taurus.

We learned about the many digital tools Ford designers use which include powerful designing software such as AutoDesk Studio to render concept cars, and using projector screens the size of a wall with extremely high resolution.

We also entered the Human Occupant Package Simulator (HOPS) laboratory where a subject had several sensors placed on various parts of his body. This is the same technology used in movies like Avatar to capture human motions digitally. As the subject moved around, his motion was digitally recorded for further examination. Such information is important when designing a comfortable vehicle.