Ford Motor Co. is developing a new virtual paint simulation tool called EPD (electrocoat paint deposition) to help ensure vehicle body panels for its cars, light and medium-duty truck products are adequately coated with electrocoat — the polymeric coating that protects vehicles against corrosion.

Developed in conjunction with Norwegian supplier Bergen Software Services International (BSSI), EPD is a full-vehicle virtual tool that simulates electrocoat coverage, giving Ford engineers the ability to modify vehicle design and/or application parameters in a virtual environment for better corrosion protection.

The virtual testing eliminates the need to run expensive prototype vehicles through the assembly line to verify electrocoat coverage, saving time and manufacturing costs. In addition, Ford engineers can use EPD to optimize the electrocoat application on existing products, further improving current-model corrosion protection and quality.

“With EPD, full-vehicle simulations can be done in one week or less with relatively inexpensive computers,” explained Janice Tardiff, a technical specialist in computer-aided engineering at Ford's Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn, MI. “The speed of the simulations allows us to optimize vehicle attributes during the design cycle and avoid costly late changes to vehicle programs.”

She added that Ford is in the process of implementing EPD across all North American vehicle programs, with initial launches taking place on the 2010 Ford Fusion, Ford Taurus and 2011 Ford Explorer programs. Tardiff also noted that EPD represents the first in a series of virtual aids that Ford expects to utilize to improve vehicle paint quality, reduce the reliance on prototype vehicle builds, reduce manufacturing costs, and to continue to improve environmental manufacturing performance.