Giant ostrich feather duster helps Ford deliver smooth paint work at Valencia plant

Ostrich feathers help Ford to enhance the finish of cars produced at its Valencia Assembly Plant, in Spain. Thousands of plumes are used to dust models before painting.

Autocar Pro News Desk By Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 08 Oct 2015 Views icon12396 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp

Ostrich feathers are helping to enhance the smooth finish of Ford cars including the all-new Galaxy, Mondeo and S-MAX at its Valencia Assembly plant in Spain. Each vehicle produced at the company’s mega-plant in Valencia is dusted with thousands of plumes before it is painted.

The use of ostrich feathers is among a range of quality processes at the plant where one of six high quality nameplates rolls off a single production line every 40 seconds. These also include the introduction of industry-first automotive manufacturing technologies designed to deliver premium quality vehicles and that include a digital camera system that identifies paint defects, an audio testing system, and a virtual rolling road test to evaluate advanced driver technologies.

Each female ostrich feather measures up to 76 centimetres in length, weighs less than 3 grams, and can last as long as five years. The system resembles a car-wash in construction and is designed to prevent static electricity from causing particles to stick to the vehicle. Dust is then extracted via a vacuum.

“Removing the tiniest speck of dust before vehicles are painted can significantly enhance a smooth finish. Through their unique construction and durability, ostrich feathers are perfect for picking up and holding tiny particles,” said Dirk Hölzer, chief paint engineer, Ford of Europe.

The American carmaker has invested €2.3 billion since 2011 to expand and upgrade what is now one of the world’s most advanced, flexible and productive auto plants — on pace to build 400,000 units in 2015. Produced in Valencia are multiple body styles and derivatives of vehicles that include the S‑MAX sports-activity vehicle; the Galaxy people-mover; the Kuga SUV; the Transit Connect light commercial vehicle; the Tourneo Connect people-mover; and Mondeo wagon, five-door, and four-door models – including the Mondeo Hybrid, as well as the upscale Ford Mondeo Vignale. Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Mich., U.S., where the all-new Ford Mustang is produced, is among other Ford facilities worldwide to have introduced the use of ostrich feathers.

Each Ford Mondeo Vignale is hand-finished by six master craftspeople at the new state‑of‑the‑art Vignale Centre. The latest laser and camera technology supports the trained eye in closely examining every aspect of a Vignale vehicle from body shell and panel alignment to paint finish; altogether models undergo 100 additional quality checks

Passionate about precision and attention to detail, experts spend more than two hours hand‑polishing the paintwork to create the perfect high-gloss finish; and also carefully scrutinise the fine detailing and stitching of 40 individual laser-cut pieces of leather trim fitted to each seat.

A perfect finish
After a visit to the ostrich feather ‘car-wash’ an innovative paint process applies primer, base and clear coats to each vehicle without the need for oven drying in between coats. This also has the benefit of reducing CO2 emissions from the process by an estimated 15-25 percent. A corrosion‑resistant protective coating, a water-proof sealer, and a final coat of exterior paint are then applied before drying takes place at 180deg C.

Even in the most closely-controlled environments, the vehicle-painting process can be affected by small variations in temperature, humidity, air and small particle movement.

Valencia was the first plant to introduce Ford’s patented Dirt in Paint Vision System that was developed with the support of the Polytechnic University of Valencia. The system, the first to
be introduced by a volume manufacturer, generates one composite image from 3,150 digital photographs taken under mobile fluorescent lighting. Specially developed software compares the image with a perfect template and highlights improvements that are addressed immediately.

“Complex shapes and angles can make the inspection of freshly painted bodywork difficult for the human eye. The Dirt in Paint Vision System highlights even the smallest anomalies and enables engineers to address them under controlled conditions,” Hölzer said.

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