Virtual Manufacturing Goes Global

The goal of Ford’s virtual manufacturing tools is to drive compatibility between the product design and the assembly plant process. As Ford increases its presence in Asia, Africa and other markets, a digital employee undergoes ergonomic assessments that use Hollywood animation technology to get a head start on virtual assembly lines, reducing the physical stress of jobs and improving vehicle quality.

Motion-capture technology

Global employees

Ford pairs advanced motion-capture technology – commonly used in animated movies and digital games – with human modeling software to design jobs that are less physically stressful on workers. The benefits include fewer injuries, lower cost of tooling changes, higher quality and faster time to market, and Ford is seeing improvement in every one of those metrics. during the process, the subject’s size and movements are captured and loaded into a computer program, then redrawn as digital employee avatars. A new multinational avatar is based on Ford’s North American virtual workers, Jack and Jill, and now reflects the sizes and shapes of workers at assembly plants across the globe.

The manikin’s dimensions now reflect the size and shape of Ford’s global worker population. Ford of Europe and Ford North America obtained population data from their operators in six assembly plants around the world – Mexico, Spain, China, Germany, England and the U.S. The new avatar has dimensions that are standardized to give engineering and design teams clear direction and keep quality high.

Customizing Jack and Jill
The standardized manikin also can be customized to the regional Ford population that is building a specific vehicle.

Rising quality
With this technology, Ford’s digital employees are helping the company to predict the ergonomic effects of long-term repetitive motions. The impact on health and safety metrics, as well as on quality, has been tremendous.

Meet Santos
Jack and Jill will soon be joined by Santos, a computerized avatar now in the testing phase at Ford. Santos was created for the U.S. department of defense as part of the Virtual Soldier research program at the University of iowa; the military employs Santos to find ways to ease the physical strain on soldiers. Santos builds on the use of Jack and Jill by allowing Ford to understand the true strain on the body when performing actions on the job.

5/2011

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