Ford Using Plasma to Bring Old Engines Back to Life
The life of an automobile engine is not an easy one. Engines get overused, abused, and after a few hundred thousand miles…they’re usually about ready to give up the ghost, if not sooner. For some of the ones that do expire prematurely due to internal issues, Ford has a plan to get them back into fighting shape, and it involves a technique called “plasma transferred wire arc” coating (PTWA). Using this method, Ford estimates it can cut carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent as compared to building a new engine, as well as use less material in the process. “Traditional engine remanufacturing techniques can be prohibitively expensive, and energy intensive, requiring iron-cast parts and intricate machining processes," says Mark Silk, supervisor, Ford Customer Services Division Europe. "The plasma transferred wire arc coating technology removes the need for additional heavy parts and the processed engine block has a new life as the base of a replacement engine.” RELATED: Ford e-Bike Concept Gives Commuters Reason to Cheer
So how does it work? Essentially atomized steel droplets are sprayed onto an engine block’s cylinder walls, which builds up a protective layer known as Wuestite. This layer is then machined to create a smooth surface, which has shown to be more durable, result in better heat transfer and reduced friction. It also forgoes the need for heavy, pressed-in steel cylinder liners.
While this all sounds revolutionary, it isn’t Ford’s first rodeo with PTWA. In fact, Ford co-developed the automotive technology in the early 1990s with Flame-Spray Industries. It is said to be widely used in aerospace applications, as well as by Caterpillar in the remanufacturing of large diesel engines. It’s even been licensed to Nissan to create the high-strength bores of the twin-turbo V6 GT-R.
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Ford first applied the technology to a production car with the debut of the 2011 Shelby GT500 Mustang, which featured a 550 horsepower engine with sleeveless cylinders. Today, PTWA is currently being used on the 2016 Shelby GT350 Mustang.
Performance cars aside, the process could surely reduce waste and cost among retired-yet-savable engine blocks, for use as replacement engines.
In the same announcement, which was issued by Ford’s European technology center, it was also noted that Ford is developing new processes to create low-cost, high-volume carbon fiber components, which could help drastically reduce vehicle weight and increase strength. On a more sustainable note, Ford is also researching the use of creating simple components using waste tomato fibers, a byproduct of Heinz Ketchup.
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