Although the fundamental design and layout of full-size trucks has changed little over the last several decades, the technology that goes into their design, development, engineering, and quality control has. Ford is now applying three-dimensional imaging technology, similar to that used in Google Earth, to the axles of F-series trucks to ensure top-notch quality before the trucks come off the line, and ultimately fewer quality issues and warranty repairs down the road.
Ford's photogrammetric pattern reader (PPR) process, was developed in conjunction with Automated Vision and ATM Automation. A series of 9000 images are captured within a few seconds, using two cameras to combine photos of the axle gears into a series of 3D pictures that are then compared with an ideal computerized model of the gears. Any gearsets outside of the tolerance parameters are scrapped. Only two to five gearsets per 1000 typically have to be scrapped. Out-of-spec gearsets can result in excessive noise or wear that can leading to customer complaints, or worst-case scenario, axle failures.
The first application of the PPR system is at Ford's Sterling Axle Plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, with additional deployments planned for Ford's other plants around the world.