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Ford Lighting Lab keeps the sun at bay

Best-selling pickup features "brows and brims" to keep interior fade-free

Published: September 11, 2014, 12:00 PM
Updated: October 2, 2014, 4:56 PM

Ford light lab 1

Nothing in automotive design happens by accident, and Ford is letting buyers know that's true of the effects of sunlight as well. In designing the interior of its all-new 2015 F-150 pickup, the design team incorporated "brims and brows" that minimize glare and shield gauges while also adding lighting to see recessed items.

The company's Central Lab houses a device called a "Thermatron" that not only has a super cool sci fi sort of name but also simulated damaging UV rays over a long period of time on prototype parts to help identify the bets designs for production. Ford uses a Visual Performance Evaluation Lab, aka the Lighting Lab to replicate almost any light conditions from dawn to dusk, as well as changes to natural lighting caused by weather conditions.

Even the Blue Oval and F-150 badges on the perennially popular truck endured 3,00 hours of sunshine conditions, the equivalent of about five years; the three-piece badge was also cold-tested down to about 40 below Celsius and steam blasts as hot as 100 degrees Celsius to make sure its chrome plating stayed intact and the individual pieces didn't warp or crack.

Interior and exterior parts are put on outside racks for six months at facility in central Florida, which is also used for testing by NASA, to spot signs of fading or degradation. Inspection is done under a special xenon light to reveal damage long before it's visible to the eye. Approved parts must be rigorous fade-resistance standards.

Because direct sunlight can also make it hard to read instruments, Ford engineers also shaded its gauges to minimize glare and used advanced computer aided design to pick out interior materials that are the least reflective.
 Colours were chosen to minimize the washing-out effects of daylight on nav and entertainment displays too.

Ford used prototype F-150s in the Lighting Lab, which has 6,000 watts of lighting and planetarium-like dome to help simulate lighting conditions.