Campus Transformation: Employees Share Feedback on Ford’s New Driving Dynamics Lab

Driving Dynamics Lab East demonstrates an extensive reuse of materials, including reclaimed wood from our harvested campus trees used in the design decor, as well as windows and doors from the former passenger terminal and original wind tunnel, respectively.

Driving Dynamics Lab (DDL) East opened in January and was the first office building completed as part of the Dearborn Campus Transformation. It features an open collaborative design meant to enhance the workplace experience for employees.

The new Driving Dynamics Lab is part of Ford's 10-year transformation of its more than 60-year-old Dearborn facilities.

While new, the building demonstrates an extensive reuse of materials, including reclaimed wood from our harvested campus trees used in the design decor, as well as windows and doors from the former passenger terminal and original wind tunnel respectively.

Employees who moved into the Driving Dynamics Lab recently shared their feedback about the new space.

“The open office has increased the communication among team members and made it easier for us to function as a coherent team,” said Dan Clatterbuck, body-on-frame road loads supervisor. “The many ad-hoc conversations that happen throughout the day provide a valuable means to absorb knowledge from other’s experiences.

“Additionally, I’ve found it very convenient to have some of our counterparts in Vehicle Dynamics and NVH so close,” he added. “It has encouraged cross-functional learning, and the view isn’t too bad either.”

Shawn Kingsley, an engineer who formerly resided at Wind Tunnel 2, said being greeted by “Sharky,” original wind tunnel blades, made him feel right at home.

“The low walls, modular workspace and elevating desks make for a sense of unity between the teams,” he said, “and it provides an awesome atmosphere where we can get exposure to other operations and open doors for collaboration and cross-functional projects.”

“Sharky,” a painted set of original wind tunnel blades, greets employees as they enter Driving Dynamics Lab East.

Jill Morris, an FCG in body-on-frame road loads said the move into DDL East has been a great experience.

“The open collaboration areas are really convenient for quick meetings and phone calls,” she said. “Having the entire road loads group all in one building, including strain gage lab, calibration lab and garage has helped with efficiency of our testing.

“I like that I am able to go talk to anyone in the group or look at test vehicles in the garage area at any time,” she added. “Now I don’t have to worry about the time it takes to travel to different buildings to get parts or to look at test vehicles.”

Nick Cotta, who works in the strain gage lab at DDL East, said the building has proven to be an excellent lab environment.

“Our work is technically easier, more efficient and of higher quality in a clean and stable environment,” he said. “Having a separate room for our heavier equipment with easy access feels downright luxurious and it also is much easier for us to interface with the RL engineering team."

He said his team enjoys the look and feel of the space itself.

“I like to describe it as ‘radically pleasant,’ meaning the space exudes a bright and cheery feel,” Cotta said. “The natural light, large windows and clean lines make bench work feel much more natural. Another of our technicians described the environment as ‘homey’ and ‘almost like working in a nice hotel’ and that this takes the ‘work out of work’ which is a sentiment we all agree with.”

Campus Transformation: Driving Dynamics Lab East

Driving Dynamics Lab (DDL) East opened in January and was the first office building completed as part of the Dearborn Campus Transformation. It features an open collaborative design meant to enhance the workplace experience for employees. The building demonstrates an extensive reuse of materials, including reclaimed wood from our harvested campus trees used in the design decor, as well as windows and doors from the former passenger terminal and original wind tunnel respectively.

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State-of-the-Art Lab Space

The new building includes an Elastomer Lab, an Airborne Sound Lab, an updated Sound Transmission Loss Suite, and a High Pressure Air Leakage machine. The crown jewel of the sound suite will be the climate adjustable All-Wheel Drive Low Frequency Chassis Dynamometer– the first chamber of its kind in the U.S.

“This is one of the most advanced testing rooms we’ve ever had,” said Dave Payne, manager of Vehicle Development Operations at Ford. “It’s going to increase our testing capacity and help us deliver the optimal-sounding and most comfortable vehicles possible for our customers – now and into the future.”

In typical sound test chambers, sound waves bounce off walls and hit a vehicle multiple times, making it harder to get the most accurate readings. Ford’s new state-of-the art chamber solves this problem with specially designed wall panels. Over a foot thick, these panels absorb low frequency sounds down to 25 hertz - which is nearly silent for most people.

Isolating the vehicle away from this level of extraneous sound lets engineers pinpoint vehicle-generated noise and vibrations that are entering the cabin and ultimately adjust it to the optimum comfort level.

At the center of the low frequency chamber is an AWD dyno that duplicates multiple road surfaces and allows engineers to run vehicles indoors up to 150 mph. The dyno helps Ford more accurately measure the amount of car sound and vibrations that enter the interior cabin when the car is in motion.

Notably, vehicle materials can change characteristics at different temperatures – in cold weather tires can stiffen and become louder, for example. The climate adjustable chamber can test and isolate vehicle sound in temperatures ranging from minus 40 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows engineers to modify the vehicle for the ideal sound level in nearly any climate.

While the low frequency chamber will be used primarily to deliver a quieter, more comfortable experience, it also has the benefit of enabling Ford to “adjust the volume” on electrified vehicles.

Since EVs are generally quieter than non-EV vehicles, they can be tougher for pedestrians to hear. This low frequency lab will give Ford a better understanding of the noise EVs generate and help it set the best sound level for those inside and outside of the vehicle.

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