This article also appears in
Subscribe now »

Ford lighting expert John Teodecki holds the highly engineered plastic lens with gloves so his fingerprints don't detract from beam quality. The same setup is used for the high and low beams, with the smaller high-beam units also serving as daytime running lamps.

Jewel-like lens highlights Ford F-150 LED headlamp

Ford is using a highly engineered lens with 16 precision optical surfaces and 80 facets in the upcoming 2015 F-150's headlamp to re-create as much as possible a daytime quality of light after the sun goes down. The automaker says no other light-duty pickup truck on the road today uses LED headlamps.

In addition to making the headlamps more energy-efficient, LED technology also contributes to a baked-in durability that, Ford promises, will make them last for the life of the vehicle.

The headlamp design was a team effort among engineers at Ford, Osram, and Flex-N-Gate and involved great attention to detail in terms of styling, thermal management (aluminum die-cast heat sinks employed), production repeatability, physical robustness, and systems integration. Beam pattern and color quality are said by Ford to be exceptional.

"There's a fair bit of proprietary technology all through the life cycle and development of the product," Ford lighting expert John Teodecki told Automotive Engineering.

In terms of production, Osram is responsible for producing the light source (off-the-shelf LEDs sourced from its sister company, Osram Opto Semiconductors), carrier, primary lens, heat sink, and electronic controls. Those parts are delivered to Flex-N-Gate, which assembles them into headlamps that are then delivered to Ford.

"There's never been anything made like that for an automotive headlamp," Osram Product Marketing Director David Hulick told Automotive Engineering about the lens. "We worked with our partners to push materials science in new directions to be able to mold something like that and still get the incredible precision that a headlamp requires."

"The real challenge," he continued, "is making hundreds of thousands of them. That takes some real process control and real solid design work."

Hulick said the lens—made of high-temperature LED-grade polycarbonate—is about 2 in (50 mm) thick, about 4 in (100 mm) wide, and about 2 in (50 mm) high.

Continue reading »