FORD’S DURATEC 35 ENGINE: AS FLEXIBLE AS THE PLANT THAT MAKES IT
Ford’s new award-winning V6 engine is all about flexibility. The Duratec 35 will be used in a number of vehicles, and the plant that makes it will be a model for flexible manufacturing at Ford.
Ford’s Lima (Ohio) Engine Plant is producing 325,000 of the 3.5-liter 265 horsepower engines that are being introduced in the Ford Edge , Lincoln MKX and MKZ, Ford Five Hundred and the Mazda CX-9. The company projects the engine will power as many as 20 percent of its vehicles by the end of the decade.
"The Duratec 35 engine is intended to be a cornerstone engine in Ford’s powertrain line-up for many years to come," said Tom McCarthy, Duratec 35 Engine Systems Manager. "It is only the first step in the development of this architecture. You can expect many additional applications and technologies to follow."
The Duratec 35 made headlines in January, when Ward’s Auto World named it as one of the 10 best engines of the year — the first time a debut engine received such an honor. Ward’s called it a "brilliant performer" with class leading refinement.
"It’s a huge accomplishment for Ford," said McCarthy. "The V6 segment is one of the most highly competitive segments in the industry."
During the design phase Ford engineers emphasized performance; fuel economy and low exhaust emissions, and added Ford’s new 6F six-speed automatic gearbox. The transmission delivers up to seven percent better fuel economy than typical four-speed automatics, meaning the average driver will be able to skip about two fill-ups a year said Barb Samardzich, Ford vice president of Powertrain Product Development.
Ford engineers gave the engine plenty of room to grow. It is flexible enough to incorporate many technologies including front- or rear-wheel-drive, hybrid capability, gasoline direct injection and turbo-injection. It is also capable of passing the Partial Zero Emission Vehicles (PZEV) standards, put in place by the state of California and considered the strictest in the country.
To accommodate the Duratec program Ford invested $335 million in the Lima plant making it the company’s first engine facility in North America to receive flexible manufacturing equipment.
The Lima Engine Plant, built in 1957 to manufacture the V-8 engines for the Edsel, measures 2.4 million square feet and employs more than 1,600 people. In recent years, it has won numerous awards from Ford management for outstanding quality
"We have utilized a substantial number of CNC (computer numerical control) machines at our Lima facility," said Samardzich. "That allows us to be flexible and is an example of our overall manufacturing strategy for Powertrain."
CNC machines help Ford to react quickly to changing production needs. The machines can be reprogrammed internally, with little or no interruption to production. In many cases, the reprogramming can be accomplished over a weekend.
"The flexibility in the Duratec 35 architecture, and the ease of which we were able to set up the Lima manufacturing facilities to accommodate additional changes, are what we expect to see across Ford as we move forward," said Samardzich.