Given that the 2015 Ford F-150 is the first pickup with an aluminum body, it’s not exactly surprising that the truck is the most patented in the automaker’s 111-year history.
What’s impressive is the sheer number of new Ford patents and patent applications the truck is responsible for: more than 100. And because of that, Ford considers the pickup a blueprint that could usher in a paradigm shift in the truck-making world.
Every aspect of the truck includes a new technology from manufacturing processes to the chassis, electrical, engine, interior, exterior and, of course, that high-strength, military-grade aluminum body which shaves 700 pounds off the truck’s weight.
On the exterior, patented or applied-for technologies include the F-150’s new segment-first LED headlights; LED side-mirror spotlights; 360-degree camera view; the remote tailgate release; loading ramps integrated into the truck bed; the new tailgate step and the BoxLink cargo management system.
The truck features a new high-strength steel chassis while aluminum alloys form the body and cargo box. Ford announced it would shut down its truck plants for a combined 13 weeks in order to retool for the new manufacturing process these trucks require.
Part of that process is a proprietary method for heat-treating aluminum developed by Ford engineers. The process doubles the strength of the medal, Ford says.
Ford engineers have also filed patent applications for spot welding methods, adhesives and hydroforming the new F-150. Hydroforming is the process Ford will use to shape the military-grade aluminum into the body of the F-150. The current form of the process, which may differ from Ford’s newly-developed one, injects hydraulic fluid at a very high pressure into the aluminum in order to press it into a die.
“Ford is teaching the world how to build a next-generation truck, and the more than 100 patents filed by the F-150 team for technologies on the 2015 truck further proves these Ford engineers and designers lead the automotive industry in innovation,” said Alana Strager, a Ford analyst who kept track of all the patents and new technologies on the 2015 F-150.
Strager’s “teaching” comment may not be too far off. Though the automaker’s decision to go aluminum on the new truck was initially met by skepticism, the truck’s announcement reportedly set off a “stampede” for aluminum among competing manufacturers. You can bet those competitors will examine every detail of the F-150 when it is released later this year to learn what they can from the new pickup.