Powertrain

(Image: Ford)

2020 Explorer will be first product to emerge – more quietly – from Ford’s newest NVH lab

Ford’s new driving dynamics laboratory allows for rolling NVH testing in climate-controlled, semi-anechoic chamber

The 2020 Explorer will be the first Ford product engineered via the automakers new driving dynamics laboratory, which provides multiple tools to create quieter vehicles, including a new semi-anechoic, rolling-platform test chamber. The 2020 Ford Explorer will also feature a first-for-Ford “dual-walled” bulkhead, in essence a sealed composite engine shroud to further isolate the cabin from powertrain noise.

Parker Lewis (top), Ford’s noise, vibration and harshness engineering manager, said the new facility makes it easier to “confirm our analytical predictions with physical testing on a component system level, as well as at the full-vehicle level in the semi-anechoic room.” Lewis also noted that the new facility complements the host of front-end CAE, dovetailing virtualization software with actual production-ready components.

“This validation allows us to confirm that the customer isn’t going to experience issues in places that we might have disconnects in our CAE. Places we might have to optimize materials selection or space considerations, to make sure we have no hot spots that the customer would hear or feel.”

New NVH lab

The new driving dynamics lab in Dearborn, Michigan, is the latest Ford noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) testing facility. The lab allows engineers to test vehicle NVH in different settings, including a semi-anechoic chamber with 4-wheel rollers to simulate a variety of road surfaces, in temperatures from -40F (-40C) to 140F (60C). The controlled climate is crucial to the engineering validation process, as it permits engineers to thermally shrink and expand materials that could introduce squeaks or rattles.

“How all those pieces and elements coming together fit, and what they are made from are critical questions for us to ensure proper assembly to reduce gaps that can allow wind noise in in the first place,” Lewis said.

Individual vehicle parts can also be tested in the lab’s fully anechoic chamber and reverberation suite. The anechoic room provides an area free of echo and reverberation to create a pure working environment for sound measurements, while the second is used to determine how noise permeates full components or materials, such as sheet metal. A shared, configurable wall between these two spaces lets engineers test sound permeability of individual or layered components.

New “dual-wall” bulkhead design

Developed using the tools in the new lab, the 2020 Explorer will feature a new “dual-wall” bulkhead designed to significantly reduce powertrain NVH. This new engine shroud – formed with a composite sheet-molded compound (SMC) – creates an air gap between the engine compartment and the steel front bulkhead by wrapping around the back of the engine and meeting the strut towers on each side of the engine bay.

The Explorer will use the new composite engine shroud in combination with laminated windshield and front-window glass (plus active noise cancellation on hybrid models), to attenuate road and powertrain noise. Beyond general comfort and ease of conversing, quieter cabins are also expected to enable greater implementation of voice-activated features – such as Amazon’s Alexa – which will become more prevalent in upcoming platforms.

Introduced during this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the all-new 2020 Explorer will be manufactured at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant, and is expected in dealerships this summer.

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Paul Seredynski is a contributing writer at SAE International.