A team effort that involved up to thirty modellers at one time gave Ford the leading edge in the major category at this year’s design awards.

Early clay models for what is now the new Ford Territory were created from the very beginning – in the preliminary styling and development phase four years ago.

Full-size models were used extensively in styling clinics to confirm styling directions, for management approvals, wind tunnel testing and engine feasibility trials.

Scale models were also used to explore any changes in direction. A small fibreglass model, just under half the actual size, was sent to the US for Ford’s approval.

Karl Gibbons, modelling supervisor at Ford Australia explains that clay modelling has become much more technically advanced in the past five years.

Clay modelling no longer involves such a ‘hands on’ approach, he says. “With the advent of computer aided modelling, from ‘virtual’ models on screen and CNC (Computer Numerical Control) milling capabilities, the accuracy is much higher and model turnaround much faster.”

Gibbons says, “Ford uses large plasma screens to view virtual models that are developed to create the assumptions for the program.” Verification clay models are then milled in the modelling studio.

Gibbons doesn’t see the virtual system replacing clay models totally but says it shortens the development time dramatically.

“We can run simultaneous engineering analysis on screen and, when the surface development information is developed, engineers can analyse a vehicle for manufacturing and production feasibility as well as wind tunnel performance.”

Before modelling the exterior and interior in clay, Ford runs extensive interior and exterior animations in styling research clinics so future customers can see very clearly what a car will look like. “Models for styling clinics have to be totally realistic otherwise it can negatively affect the research,” said Gibbons.

Once a vehicle is finally approved – after many years of development – ‘A-Class surfaces’ are developed from the virtual model and tooling can proceed.

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