LONDON, December 5, 2000 - Ford and the UK Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) today have agreed to announce a joint venture aimed at accelerating the vehicle design process and improving quality.
The joint venture, Holographic Imaging LLC, is a research and development company formed to create a three-dimensional, interactive imaging workstation prototype. The new technology has the potential to save Ford millions of dollars in design and development costs for new vehicle platforms, while also bringing new products to consumers faster.
The technology, under development by DERA, will be used by Ford to create full-scale virtual digital models of prototype vehicles. The joint venture will streamline Ford's vehicle design processes by reducing the reliance on hard models, give Ford the ability to redesign features in real time and the capability to hold multiple design reviews simultaneously.
"The new company's focus is to develop a three-dimensional design tool which can be used to accelerate and simplify Ford's product development and design processes," said Neil Ressler, vice president, Research and Vehicle Technology and chief technical officer, Ford Motor Company. "DERA's long history of innovation as the largest R&D organization in Western Europe, including the development of proprietary liquid crystal display and flat screen display technology, makes this partnership a revolutionary step by Ford."
The joint venture also will have the potential to tap into other business and growth opportunities, such as participating in attractive new businesses in automotive and non-automotive fields as a licensor or equity partner. These include applying the technology to other fields such as aerospace, entertainment, medical imaging, oil and gas industry, industrial design and marketing.
The technology may have important defense applications, too, for example in command and control, exercise planning, product design and simulators. The UK Ministry of Defence will retain use of the technology for British military purposes. "DERA's three-dimensional imaging technology leads the world in futuristic imaging techniques and promises major changes in design processes and other similar applications," said David Steeds, director, Corporate Development, DERA. "A substantial amount of Intellectual Property has been developed since we started working closely together and the JV will allow DERA and Ford to develop this valuable IP to its full potential."
"This three-dimensional imaging technology allows for much earlier review of proportion and stance, gives us the ability to look at multiple solutions and modify them in real time by just moving our hands in space, and provides relatively quick means to assess and improve our craftsmanship quality," said J Mays, vice president, Design, Ford Motor Company. "Imagine being able to project a three-dimensional instrument panel in full-scale and view it from behind the wheel or the passenger seat and obtain customer feedback months earlier than we can get today. This will be possible with this technology."
Ford has been collaborating with DERA on research into interactive three-dimensional holography since 1997. A system based on this technology will enable true, three-dimensional virtual models of vehicles, components and fully interactive systems that can be used by design, engineering and marketing staffs. Jaguar began working with DERA in 1996 on night vision systems.
Both Ford and DERA will retain equal stakes in the new company, while they continue to explore joint commercialization opportunities with other companies. The new company will be based in the U.S. Terms were not disclosed and the transaction is subject to completion of definitive agreements.
DERA is one of Europe's largest research organizations and employs 12,000 people; many of them leading scientists and internationally acclaimed experts. DERA's pioneering research and development this century includes the invention of liquid crystal displays (LCDs), carbon fibre, the technology for flat panel speakers, infra-red sensors and microwave radar, as well as Chobham armour, and shaped charges.
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