Ford is well known for its innovations in things like vehicle production and assembly, engine design, fuel-efficient “EcoBoost” motors, and cabin technology. But you may not realize that Ford innovates on many different fronts, in addition to the straightforward appearance of new features on new and updated cars. For example, technical experts at the Ford Research and Innovation center have recently released a manufacturing process called Ford Freeform Fabrication Technology (F3T), which will change the way Ford designs and produces prototypes.

The technology that Ford will be using to develop prototypes of new Ford vehicles, as well as customized parts and low-volume manufacturing, hinges on computer management of sheet metal fabrication. So when a designer comes in with a piece for a prototype vehicle, a piece of fresh sheet metal is clamped in place and a pair of stylus-like tools manipulate the fresh piece from opposite ends to form the piece required. This innovation allows much quicker production of prototype models, because designers can see their ideas in the flesh much more quickly.

Another advantage to the customer is that of advanced customization. If someone orders a customized piece for a car from Frankfurt, Ford is much more quickly and affordably able to accommodate special request at the factory through the use of the F3T technology. The low costs, increased velocity, and higher flexibility of this technology places Ford firmly ahead of competitors in terms of their manufacturing ability for these types of requests. In fact, the technology is expected to have applications beyond the automotive industry, with potential uses in areas as varied as building aircraft to building household appliances.