- The new "Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center" is dedicated today on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston.
Ford, Boeing and Northwestern are in final negotiations to form a new alliance to research commercial applications of nanotechnology -- the branch of engineering that deals with things smaller than 100 nanometers and at the molecular level. The agreement, which is expected to become final later this month, is designed to pave the way for future advancements in transportation, including cars that could someday be powered by clean hydrogen rather than gasoline.
"Ford has a long history of research in the field of nanotechnology, and this relationship will strengthen our knowledge for the future," said Dr. Gerhard Schmidt, Ford's vice president of Research and Advanced Engineering. "As our Chairman Bill Ford announced recently, innovation is the compass by which we are setting our company's future direction -- stylish in design, safer for families and first in technology that uses new fuels and offers new services to consumers. In line with this commitment, we are very pleased to be working with Boeing. They have been our long-time partner, and our joint collaboration with Northwestern University underscores just how serious we are about innovating for the future together."
"We also are pleased to work with Ford and Northwestern on innovative ways to use and develop nanotechnology," said Bob Krieger, president of Boeing Phantom Works, Boeing's advanced research and development organization. "Nanotechnology offers exciting new possibilities to help improve our current products and develop better products in the future."
"Nano" refers to the nanometer, a measurement of a millionth of a millimeter, and nanotechnology involves the manipulation of atoms as raw materials. Scientists hope nanotechnology will dramatically advance medicine, electronics and manufacturing.
For automobiles, nanotechnology could help Ford find ways to boost power in hybrid vehicle batteries using "nanoscale materials" that create more energy from traditional materials today. In the hydrogen arena, nanotechnology could help researchers develop higher capacity hydrogen storage tanks for cars, which would help make the fuel more practical for the future.
While the initial focus of the research will be nanotechnology, other potential research areas include specialty metals, thermal materials, coatings and sensors.
The new alliance between Ford and Boeing will be the latest development in a 10-year relationship that has resulted in improved products for both companies.
Examples of past innovations between Ford and Boeing include: -- Human Factors Modeling: Ford shared with Boeing its "Third Age Suit," which is made of materials that add bulk, restrict movement and obscure vision to help give engineers and designers a feel for the needs of the elderly. By using the suit, Ford and Boeing engineers have been able to research ways to provide more user friendly interiors for automobiles and aircraft. -- Aluminum Bonding: Boeing shared knowledge of its expertise in aluminum bonding from aerospace products with Ford for production of the Ford GT supercar. The technology, including the use of "friction stir welding," was used by Ford to bond the center tunnel of the Ford GT to its floor pan without deformation. -- Rapid Prototyping: Boeing and Ford shared knowledge of rapid prototyping to refine and develop methods that allow part designs created in a computer to be "printed" in 3-D by a computer-operated laser that cures a photo-sensitive resin. This "printed" model becomes a prototype part without the need for expensive tooling. Ford now can cast parts as large as an engine block with rapid prototyping equipment in days instead of months or weeks.
Ford and Boeing also have committed to a technology exchange program, which includes providing access to each other's talented people, technology and process know-how to benefit their products.
For Northwestern University, the alliance is seen as an opportunity to develop even closer working relationships that are inherent in an arrangement such as this one. Having embedded personnel leads to better understanding and identification of each partner's needs and expertise, the university says, provides opportunities for technology sharing that benefit everyone.
Northwestern has been one of the early leaders in the field of nanoscience and home of one of the first nanotechnology centers in the country.
The study of nanomaterials and technology transcends many departments and schools within the university, ranging from engineering and chemistry to biology and medicine. The learning experiences of students who will be involved with faculty in the new research project are unique opportunities that prepare them for their future roles as creators of value.
The intent to form this new alliance is being announced on the same day that Ford and Northwestern University dedicate a new $30 million engineering center on the school's campus near Chicago. Ford provided a $10 million grant to build the new "Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center" as part of the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science facility.
"We are pleased to be involved with such an innovative company as Boeing and a university as esteemed as Northwestern," Ford's Schmidt explained. "Although our products are different in many ways, we share a common goal of innovating for the future together."
"We are committed to working with the best and brightest engineers and technologists throughout the world as part of our process to find and develop technologies that will improve our defense, space and commercial airplane products," added Boeing Phantom Works President Bob Krieger. "We have benefited from working with the engineers at Ford during the past 10 years, as they have from us. We look forward to working together in the future."
About Ford Motor Company: Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures and distributes automobiles in 200 markets across six continents. With 325,000 employees and 110 plants worldwide, Ford's core and affiliated automotive brands include Aston Martin, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury and Volvo. Its automotive- related services include Ford Motor Credit Company.