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Building a proper wind-tunnel facility can be a seriously costly exercise, especially if you’re developing multiple vehicle models in multiple locations around the globe.
In a bid to find a workaround for that, the clever people at Ford have put together a mobile wind tunnel using little more than a couple of shipping containers and some high-tech aero-accoustic measuring technology.
Each container includes aeroacoustic vanes and internal ducting to provide smooth, controlled airflow at the nozzle end of the machine, while two 16-bladed, six-foot-diameter ducted fans – each powered by a 250-horsepower electric motor – deliver a maximum blast of 80-mph wind.
The machine consists of the two main containers fastened together side by side on flat, level tarmac. In between, two roll-up doors are lifted, while doors on the front and back ends are opened to create the air intake and outlet nozzle. A third, 40-foot container – housing a small office, power distribution and controls – is placed nearby, and data and power cabling are connected between the containers.
While the mobile lab can’t do everything Ford’s US$50-million aerodynamic labs can, it is more than capable of detecting sources of unwanted wind noise in early production vehicles, allowing Ford to develop solutions sooner.
“This project was born from a desire to be the best when it comes to controlling and limiting the cabin noise customers are so sensitive to,” said Bill Gulker, Ford wind noise core supervisor. “And our new mobile wind tunnel saves our engineers time and increases productivity. It’s a fine example of the innovation mindset we’re trying to incorporate into everything we do.”
Check it out in action: