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Ford goes back to the future to keep drivers safe

Ford gores back to the future

Engineers at Ford have come up with a modern twist on a technique used by medieval blacksmiths to help protect knights in armour from the crashing blows of their opponents.

Using giant furnaces, robots and 3,000 Degrees C lasers, the first fully automated ‘hot-forming’ process is shaping and cutting parts of the car which are integral to protecting drivers and passengers.

The process helps to ensure that Ford’s all-new Focus earned a maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating.

“We are building on techniques used to strengthen steel for thousands of years, incorporating modern materials and automation to speed and refine the hot-forming process,” said Dale Wishnousky, vice president, Manufacturing, Ford of Europe.

“The resulting boron steel safety cell helps to make the all-new Focus one of our safest vehicles ever.”

Ford goes back to the future

The hot-forming line at Ford’s Saarlouis Vehicle Assembly Plant in Germany was built as part of a recent €600 million investment.

The new Focus features extensive use of boron steel – the strongest steel used in the automotive industry – within the car’s safety cell. This helps to create a survival space in the event of an accident. In addition, the use of boron, also found in skyscrapers, helps the new model to achieve a 40% improvement in the car’s capability to withstand head‑on crashes.

Hot-formed steel pieces are subjected to temperatures of up to 930 Degrees C, unloaded by robots into a hydraulic press that has a closing force up to 1,150 tonnes, and and then shaped and cooled in just three seconds. The boron steel is so strong by this point that a laser beam hotter than lava is used to precision-cut each piece into its final shape.

About Gareth Herincx

Gareth is a versatile journalist, copywriter and digital editor who's worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online. After long stints at the BBC, GMTV and ITV, he now specialises in motoring.

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