Ford applies Hollywood-style animation technology to improve car quality

Article by Christian Andrei, on May 24, 2011

Ford Motor Co. wants to make the workplace less physically stressful and to enhance its vehicles’ quality in one interesting move -- the application of animation technology (also known as motion capture) to new production facilities in Africa, Asia, and other regions.

This Hollywood-inspired technology enables Ford to reduce costs by not being required to change unworkable parts. Ford has been using the animation technology in North America starting in 2005.

Allison Stephens, Ford's ergonomics specialist with vehicle operations manufacturing engineering, said that the company is “very pleased” with the outcome. Nonhuman characters seem more lifelike with the use of this motion-capture technology that digitally captures movement.

This is actually similar to what movies like “Mars Needs Moms” and games like “Mortal Kombat” use. Motion-capture technology is combined with human modeling software by the researchers in Ford's Detroit labs to design physically safe jobs at its global facilities.

Stephens said that researchers are capable of simulating almost the entire assembly of a vehicle. Stephens explained that when planning a situation at a work station, the program simulates how the worker moves by using this “digital manikin.” Ford researchers are making a multinational avatar that’s inspired by Jack and Jill, Ford's North American virtual workers.

Stephens added that this new avatar represents the sizes and shapes of workers at assembly plants around the world. She mentioned that the job-related injuries in its North American operations have dropped by 80% ever since this technology was in use since 2005.

With this technology, Ford is able to resolve quality issues virtually before they take place in the actual workplace. This results to higher-quality vehicles and also gives Ford greater economies of scale when acquiring parts from suppliers since Ford is aware what components work best.

Topics: ford, technology

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