Ford’s Factory Tour Boasts Robots, Lasers and Projection
Ford’s F-150 may be a classic among American-made trucks, but it’s also got its eye on the future. The Manufacturing Innovation immersion experience at the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, a Ford factory complex located in Dearborn, MI, showcases the automaker’s recent breakthroughs and brings the story of the people behind its technologies to life in a visceral, emotional way.
The “stronger, smarter, lighter” 2015 F-150 truck, which also happens to be Ford’s best-selling truck model, is the star of the experience. Now built with an aluminum body that weighs 700 pounds lighter that its steel counterpart, the F-150 represents a bold move on the part of the company, one that positions the truck as the ultra-capable pickup of the future. Before people see the finished product at the plant, it connects them to the incredible level of research and technology that went into the truck’s new design. It also gives context for real-life applications of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) education and innovation that can’t be seen anywhere else.
Manufacturing Innovation involved the rehab of an existing theater and repurposing of seven HD projection screens that span 360 degrees around the audience. The new show incorporates choreographed state-of-the-art immersive technology, including high-definition media, 3D projection mapping, two synchronized industrial robots, multiple lasers, custom LED lighting, a custom musical score, vibrating floor and a moving element with a three-quarters-scale F-150 rising from the floor. The eight-minute experience required close collaboration with the Ford design and innovation teams and a unique filmmaking process that utilized GoPro cameras recording never-before-filmed manufacturing sequences in freshly renovated industrial locations and required specialized rigs for exterior driving shots.
As the theater darkens, the show begins with the digitally typed question: “What is your F-150 of the future?” then the tempo quickens as the audience witnesses the design, engineering, innovation, trial and error and preparation that went into the new F-150. The theater comes to life with special lighting and laser effects as the model of the truck appears to be 3D-printed right before their eyes. After this close encounter with Ford technology, the audience can take a walking tour above the working F-150 assembly line for a better understanding of what goes into the truck.
Manufacturing Innovation is a permanent brand destination that was designed and built to stand up to heavy use, day-in and day-out, over years. Yet in a mere nine weeks, it went from napkin sketch to installation via 3D modeling, two-inch scale models for projection tests and the latest video mapping servers. Special effects include full 360-degree spherical video, 360-degree panoramic stop motion time lapse footage and full-range projection effects. A futuristic experience befitting the truck of the future.