Breakthrough Design Process Provides Inside Look At Breakthrough Ford
5 January 1999World's Largest Hologram: Breakthrough Design Process Provides Inside Look At Breakthrough Ford Car
DETROIT, Jan. 4 -- Ford Motor Company is giving visitors to the 1999 North American International Auto Show an inside look at a futuristic, super-efficient family sedan; and, at the same time, a sneak preview of how cars and trucks might be designed in the next century. The concept car is the Ford P2000 Prodigy, but it isn't being shown in traditional fiberglass or clay. Instead, it takes the form of the world's largest full-color display hologram -- a 50 percent scale, three-dimensional image projected from a 40-square-foot panel. The exterior of the P2000 Prodigy is translucent red, allowing the viewer to see inside to the vehicle's futuristic powertrain -- a hydrogen fuel cell. "Ford P2000 represents the future of the family sedan -- efficient, clean but fully functional with no compromises on safety, quality and driving dynamics," said J Mays, Ford vice president - Design. "It's only fitting we display this futuristic car in a completely new form. Our holography display is the public's first look at a promising technology in its infancy. Perhaps it's also a glimpse into the future of product development at Ford." The 3-D image of the Ford P2000 Prodigy appears when the tiled panel of holographic film is illuminated by intense white light. The film panel contains 900,000 individual exposures taken directly from the computer design data from the car's development team in Dearborn. "Holograms have come a long way from flying doves on credit cards and low- resolution images on the back of cereal boxes," said Tom Scott, director - Ford Advanced Design. "But the most exciting developments are yet to come." Holography is a technique in which a complex three-dimensional image can be recorded and reproduced on a flat, two dimensional surface. To make a standard hologram, a beam of cohesive white light is divided into two smaller beams. One of these beams, called the reference beam, is kept pure and travels directly to the photosensitive film on which the hologram is to be recorded. The other beam, called the object beam, is reflected off the object to be recorded and back onto the same film. As the reference beam and object beam converge on the film, they interact and combine to form a complex pattern called an interference pattern. Once developed, the film's interference pattern is capable of diffracting light to reproduce an exact copy of the object beam when illuminated with a copy of the reference beam. When viewed by an observer, the copy of the object beam creates an image of the actual model in 3D space. However, the Ford hologram is not a reproduction of a physical object -- the image was created directly from 3-D electronic design data from computers in the company's Advanced Design Studio. As Ford continues to compress its product development times, the company will bring new customer-pleasing vehicles to market more quickly. Tapping into Ford's industry-leading computer capabilities is the key. Holographic technology may provide a better means to view and work with complex design data, Scott said. "Our designers and engineers today work on a globally-linked computer system that processes all data in three dimensions," Scott said. "What's missing is a fully interactive way to visualize that data. Holography appears to be the most promising technology to produce that breakthrough, and we are encouraged by our research efforts in this developing field." "What this will mean to our customers is simple: higher quality, more exciting vehicles that hit the market more quickly," he said. Ford and Zebra Imaging Team to Develop Hologram The hologram of the P2000 Prodigy has full parallax -- that is, a viewer who stoops down will see underneath the image while a tall viewer can look down on the top of the car. Developed jointly by Ford and Zebra Imaging, Inc. in Austin, Texas, it is easily the largest hologram of its kind ever displayed to the public. Previously, it is believed that the largest full-color, full parallax hologram generated directly from computer data was just four inches square. This type of display hologram may serve as "hard copy" for tomorrow's designers. Ford and its partners in the "replacement reality" research project are also working to develop interactive 360 degree "transmission holograms" that would allow designers, senior management or customers in clinics to visualize designs in 3-D in real time. "This isn't just a presentation technology for our auto show display. Holography might allow us to make design decisions faster to create more exciting cars and trucks for our customers," Scott said. Aerodynamic P2000 Prodigy Car: Production Feasible Technology Ford is developing a number of lightweight, fuel efficient vehicles with the P2000 name as part of the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) program. The vehicles are designed to prove out revolutionary but production-feasible concepts in the use of light-weight materials, aerodynamic design, innovative powertrains, creative packaging and other technologies that will help make tomorrow's environmentally responsive vehicles appeal to customers who don't want to sacrifice performance or functionality. The five-passenger aluminum-bodied P2000 Prodigy sedan will be extremely light and aerodynamic (with a drag coefficient of .23) for optimal energy efficiency. Two advanced powertrains being developed for the Prodigy: a hydrogen fuel cell system (shown in the display) that will power an electric drivetrain, and a hybrid electric system featuring a very small high-output compression ignition engine, nickel metal hydride batteries and regenerative braking.