Ford GT: Framework for Success
By: Mike O'Neill | Ford Communications Network
Past studies that have compared aluminum space frames to conventional steel construction have shown body-in-white weight savings of at least 25 percent. For more information on the GT, visit fordvehicles.com/fordgt.
DEARBORN, -- Befitting the company's hottest production car ever, even the frame on the Ford GT breaks new technological ground. It is called a space frame, and it is unlike any other ever used in a Ford vehicle.
"We are using the Ford GT to introduce technology in the interest of both developing it for the niche specialty vehicle, and also with the hope that it can be used in mass production in the future," said Adrian Elliott, Ford GT Space Frame Manufacturing Supervisor.
The frame is made of aluminum and includes seven different castings and 70 individual extrusions. The use of aluminum extrusions sharply reduces tooling costs, which is very important in a low volume car. Capital investment is about $5,000 per die for aluminum extrusions. The vehicles are more complex, but that is not a major issue on such a low volume car -- nine jobs per day versus 50 or more per hour on many Ford Motor Company vehicles.
Even more importantly, though, to future Ford GT owners and drivers is performance. The aluminum space frame weighs just 450 pounds -- about one-third the weight of steel. "We've been very successful in bringing several different areas of technology in and filing for patents on several areas," Elliott said.
An advanced system is being used to weld the advanced chassis design for the Ford GT. It is one of Ford's first applications using MIG welding -- Metal Inert Gas welding -- on a very complex aluminum frame.
Ford the first time, Ford is using another welding method as well. It is called friction stir welding. The welding is done on a machine that looks similar to a milling machine, and no sparks fly as is the case with spot or MIG welding.
"Friction stir welding is a very clean form of welding," Elliott explained. "It actually results in a much stronger welded joint and is being used for the full length of the tunnel on both sides."
There are advanced technologies, fasteners and materials used throughout the Ford GT and it starts with the space frame.
"For Ford Research looking to bring new applications into the company, this is the ideal," said Elliott. "To call GT a dream project is not overstating it."