Ford Fusion from the print ad campaign. Image courtesy of Ford.

How thermal imaging helps Ford build quieter cars

Ford is using thermal imaging technology – like that used by police and military units to find criminals and enemy combatants – to hunt down and eliminate air leaks in vehicle cabins with extreme prejudice.

This enables the automaker to build quieter cars by deleting air leaks, resulting in diminished wind noise, a key element in customer satisfaction.

By creating a color-coded image of the heat signatures within a view, thermal imaging is used in numerous ways. In 2009, it was even used to screen for victims of Swine Flu by governmental agencies at airports.

Ford uses thermal imaging to show where air leaks in the vehicle design are – they show up as hot spikes revealing the escape of heated air.

"Ford is redefining our vehicles through many innovations – both features to improve the driving experience and fuel economy, and advanced new tools to help engineer better vehicles," said William Dedecker, noise, vibration and harshness engineering supervisor. "We are using thermal imaging to further improve quietness so customers can enjoy the other features our vehicles offer, such as audio systems...and even the sounds of silence."

Taking inspiration from energy companies, who use thermography to identify energy leaks in homes, Ford uses the technology to locate the leaks in their prototypes.

The air inside the car is heated, and thermal imaging shows specifically where the air leaks out of the cabin. The result is the development of ways to contain the air, using design and insulation changes.

"We are the first automaker to use this technology to track air leaks," said John Crisi, Ford NVH engineer. "It's an example of the innovative methods we use so our customers have a more pleasant driving experience. Our cameras can detect tiny holes and openings we could not otherwise identify."


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