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Ford Uses Thermal Imaging to Build Quieter Vehicles

Sections: Chassis

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Thermal Imaging Camera

Thermal imaging cameras have been used for everything from helping firefighters find hot spots within walls to helping make buildings more efficient and tracking down criminals who run from police. Now Ford says it is using the thermal imaging to design quieter car cabins by sealing out air and water leaks. (Photo courtesy thermalimagingcameraguide.com)

Ever had a car that produced the weirdest, most annoying wind whistle at highway speed? Apparently so have some Ford engineers, who are now using thermal imaging to eliminate annoying noises from the interior of vehicles during the design process.

According to the press release from Ford, the technology is used by aiming a thermal imaging camera at a vehicle whose cabin is being pumped full of heated air. Escaping air shows up as hot spots on the camera, and engineers know where to tackle an air- or possibly water leak-prone area.

Noise, Vibration, and Harshness (NVH) Engineering Supervisor William Dedecker said, “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. 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.”

The release said Ford was inspired to use thermal imaging by seeing energy companies use the technology to find air leaks in houses. Ford NVH Engineer John Crisi said, “We are the first automaker to use this technology to track air leaks. 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.”

Before they started using thermal imaging, Ford engineers would pump a vehicle’s cabin full of smoke and watch for it to escape, the release said. They would also walk around the vehicle and feel for air leakage, and would use nonmedical stethoscopes to try to hear air leaking from the cabin– an approach the release said they still use “to some extent.” But those methods in concert were less consistent than using thermal imaging, according to Ford.

Key areas Ford said it has identified as likely to house leaks: moonroofs, window glass, door trim, the trunk lid and liftgate, doors, and the base of the windshield.

Crisi said, “Wind noise is something a driver can really sense in a negative way while driving. By using thermal imaging technology, Ford can provide a smoother and quieter ride for our customers.”

An added bonus of using thermal imaging to build a tighter, leak-free cabin, according to Ford: Much like using the technology to ensure your home is free of leaks, doing so in a car makes its heating and cooling systems work more efficiently.

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