Sanand Takes The Lead With Making The New ‘Dragon’ Engine

Shopfloor Ford Sanand Lead Dragon Petrol Engine
Sanand Takes The Lead With Making The New ‘Dragon’ Engine

Ford India was established in the country as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ford Motor Company in 1995, and set up its first local plant in Chennai. The company experienced good growth over the years, and to address increasing demand it later set up its second manufacturing facility at Sanand in Gujarat. Ford has invested over $ 2 bn in India to expand its manufacturing facilities and dealership footprint to meet rapidly rising demand in this country, which remains one of the fastest-growing auto markets worldwide.

Ford India recently unveiled its brand-new 1.5 l, Twin independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT) petrol engine at its Sanand manufacturing facility. The Ford Sanand plant will, for now, manufacture this new ‘Dragon’ family of petrol engines exclusively, for both the domestic market as well as for exports. Ford’s engineering team in India has steered the development of the new engine with insights at various stages, from design and development to production. Ford will introduce this new engine in the upcoming refreshed model of the EcoSport later this year.

Following the unveil of the new Dragon engine, the company organised a media tour of the engine assembly line at the facility, which also manufactures other four-cylinder engines including the 1.5 l diesel, and 1.2 l and 1.5 l petrol units. The engine plant is divided into two areas, the first being the one where the crank, head and block are machined. The second is the engine assembly area, which was the part covered in this tour.

The new 1.5 l, ‘Dragon’ petrol engine is being manufactured exclusively at Sanand


The newly-unveiled ‘Dragon’ petrol engine from Ford is part of its latest series of innovations planned for India. This is a 1,497 cc, three-cylinder, naturally aspirated petrol unit that has been designed to improve performance and efficiency, while reducing size, weight and friction. The engine delivers maximum power of 121 hp at 6,500 rpm, along with peak torque of 150 Nm at 4,500 rpm. This new engine will be mated either to a five-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic transmission. The Ti-VCT system allows each intake and exhaust cam to function independently of each other as engine operating conditions change. It offers variable independent phasing for intake and exhaust, with improvements to volumetric efficiency at full load, combustion stability at idle rpm and better fuel economy at partial loads. Ti-VCT is also claimed to deliver faster throttle response and enhanced fuel economy.

This engine will have over 80 % of its components sourced from Indian suppliers. Since the new engine comes with one cylinder lesser than the existing 1.5 l petrol engine, it is lighter, with is also partly due to its aluminium block. The new engine offers better efficiency than the existing four-cylinder unit, achieving 7 % decrease in Brake Specific Fuel Consumption (BSFC) and CO2 emissions. Downsizing the engine saves weight and lowers friction, while exhaust manifold integrated in the aluminium cylinder head reduces emissions, and the dual-stage variable oil pump operated at low speeds results in higher fuel economy. Additionally, the off-set crankshaft and individual coil-on-plug system enable quicker engine start, while the spark plugs centralised in the combustion chamber promote more standardised and efficient combustion.

The new engine is also said to offer a smoother and quieter experience than the previous model, which is the result of a few factors; the first factor comes in the form of a balancer shaft supported by hydrodynamic bearings that work as counter weight to eliminate natural first-order vibrations. Secondly, the engine’s timing belt-in-oil primary drive system – an industry-first feature, cuts noise and friction. Finally, a specially-designed acoustic isolation system minimises the entry of engine noise into the cabin. Another industry-first feature on this engine is its hydraulic tappets that are equipped with finger followers with self-adjusting feature, which minimises friction and is also compatible with alternate fuels like LPG and CNG.

In terms of smart design innovations, the new 1.5 l engine features an integrated front cover that results in lower weight, improved rigidity and better NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) characteristics. It also has an integrated exhaust manifold, which is made of a single piece and integrated into the cylinder head, without joints or fasteners. The integrated exhaust manifold helps reduce noise levels and lowers temperature emissions.

The engine assembly plant carries out manufacture of low displacement engines


Ford India inaugurated its integrated manufacturing facility at Sanand, Gujarat, in March, 2015, with an investment of $ 1 bn, covering a total area of 348,000 sq m. The plant has a total annual production capacity of 240,000 vehicles and 270,000 engines, and carries out stamping, vehicle operations, engine production and service parts production. Ford currently produces the Ford Aspire compact sedan, new Figo hatchback and KA+ at the plant. While the KA+ is made for exports alone, Ford India ships vehicles, engines and parts to over 50 international markets from Sanand, making it a global manufacturing hub for compact cars and low displacement engines.

The Sanand manufacturing facility employs over 3,000 workers. It includes two extra-large press lines and blanking line for stamping; three wet top coat and RoDip Ecoat lines for paint; and 3C machining and assembly lines for manufacture of two engine architectures. The body shop features automation of 95 %, and has 19 suppliers located adjacent to plant. In terms of the engine manufacturing, this plant turns out 750 engines per day.

There is a high level of automation at the Sanand engine assembly facility


Engines at the plant pass through 185 stations on the line before being fully-assembled. The line begins with the assembly of the short block, which is the engine sub-assembly consisting of the engine block below the cylinder-head but above the crank-case. Short blocks typically consist of components including the lower block, crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, rings, main bearings, rod bearings and cam bearings. It starts with the cylinder-head sub-assembly, which consists of a number of in-process tests that ensure the quality of the engine at every stage of the assembly. Another step taken by Ford India in maintaining high quality standards in the assembly of the engine and its critical components is in the automated sealing systems. These sealing systems use vision technologies to apply the sealants, and inspect the application thereafter.

While the assembly line is a flexible one that is common for the petrol engines built at the facility, the new 1.5 l Dragon engine requires specific processes to ensure that high levels of overall efficiency are met. The main process is in ensuring that there is a 10 mm crankshaft offset from the cylinder centre line, which leads to minimised friction losses with enhanced torque levels. The machine that makes this offset is robotically-controlled, since this is a highly-critical process. The machine assembles the crankshaft into the block in the inverted position for this process.

Other specific processes include assembly of the lower end of the engine, where the torque sequence and rpm of torque applied are critical for quiet and smooth operation. The piston loading station has manual intervention in the form of two operators – one for pushing and the other for pulling, in order to ensure that the rings are not damaged. The last process in the first phase of short block assembly is that of the connecting rod. The second part of the short block engine assembly includes sub-assembly for piston and rings, with assembly of three critical components – cylinder head, cylinder block and crank, also part of this process.

A high level of in-process testing helps in maintaining the quality of the final product

This is followed by the common steps to apply sealant where required, assembly of the balancer shaft that is needed to mitigate NVH, as well as the scissor gear assembly. The company noted that matching of the scissor gear and the balancer shaft is a very important step, in order to ensure that the overall engine performance pertaining to lowering NVH levels is met. The ultimate step in the short block assembly is installation of the oil pan.

This is followed by the long block engine assembly, for which boxes with complete kits of components to complete assembly for each specific type of engine are supplied. Once the engines are assembled, they are put through the first end-of-line testing in cold state. This ‘Cold Test’ checks for engine performance with regard to components like sensors, sparks and temperature, in line with vehicle performance, without starting the engine. The wiring harness couplers used for this stage of testing are made of gold, the company noted.

The final stage of assembly includes fitting the flywheel and clutch plate, which makes the use of automated multi-spindle nut runners for installation. These automated nut runners are able to tighten 27 bolts at one go automatically. The last step in the manufacture of engines before being packed off or assembled into the cars is the Hot Run test cell. Here the engine is fitted with all the electricals and electronics, as well as filled with lubricants, to be fired up for testing in real-world conditions. The engine is run at 2,000 rpm for one-and-half minutes and monitored for all parameters of performance at emissions.

TEXT & PHOTO: Naveen Arul