Ford has created, what it claims to be, the world's first mobile aeroacoustic wind tunnel.
To be clear, we're not talking about mobile in the same way we do with a smartphone, tablet or laptop. Not by a long shot. This new wind tunnel kit, which is awaiting patent certification, can be broken down and packed away within a day, and then trucked to any one of Ford's North American production facilities.
Consisting of three shipping containers, the portable wind tunnel kit is designed to help engineers, in conjunction with sensitive in-cabin sensors, easily and rapidly identify unwanted wind noise.
At the heart of the mobile kit are two 16-metre-long shipping containers, which are setup side-by-side with each other on a flat surface. Once in place, the containers are strapped together, adjoining roll-up doors are lifted, and the two units operate as one.
Each container features two 16-blade, 1.8m diameter duct fans that are powered by a 186kW electric motor. When in operation, the front and back doors of the containers are opened to create an air intake and outlet nozzle, respectively. Operating at its peak, the mobile wind tunnel can generate winds of up to 129km/h (80mph).
The third container is a shorter 12.2m unit that contains power distribution devices, controls and a small office area.
The new mobile unit will complement existing fixed aerodynamic and aeroacoustic wind tunnel facilities within the Ford empire. According to Ford, these large building-sized facilities cost around US$50 million ($65.5 million) each. Although the company hasn't published a dollar figure, the mobile wind tunnel is said to cost "a fraction" of the cost of a stationary unit.
Ford says that when the mobile wind tunnel is setup at a factory, engineers can easily pull away pre-production and sample vehicles for testing without needing to arrange for vehicle shipping. It will also allegedly make it easier to rectify any problems arising from the production process.