As their names suggest, Alias Automotive and Alias Surfacing (// more) are two popular Autodesk products in the automotive industry. But so are programs like Sketchbook Pro (// more), Maya (// more), and Fusion 360 (// more).
Recently Senior Product Line Manager for Mechanical Design, Stephen Hooper, gave a lunchtime presentation about use of Autodesk software in the auto industry. With his permission, I thought I would share some highlights.
Some of the steps that Stephen mentioned included:
Car design typically starts with a conceptual sketch whose form is intended to capture an emotion. Car manufacturers feel that creative design is what sets their cars apart from others.
Based on a concept drawing, an early stage prototype model is created using subdivisional modeling. The subdivisions make it easy to modify pieces of the model.
After subdivisional modeling, a non-uniform rational b-spline (NURB) representation is created. The intent is to begin creating mathematically accurate surfaces.
No manufacturing process would be complete without a physical model, so sculptors model using clay.
Though clay provides a tangible element to the process, a "class A" surface is required. A class A model is mathematically precise enough to produce a "press" used to fabricate the car into production.
Though the image above looks like it is ready for the production process, Stephen specifically chose it because it's actually not (e.g., driver side front wheel cover). Car designers perform what they call "a zebra analysis" on the class A surface. They are looking for pattern irregularities. This is critical. When consumers first see a car in a showroom or on the road, how light reflects off the surfaces creates a perception of quality.
Throughout the entire design process, visualization is key. Consumers make an emotional judgment based on light reflections. Irregular reflections (as depicted in the previous zebra analysis picture) create an impression of low quality, and car manufacturers take great pains to make sure that doesn't happen. So proper visualization of contour lines, shadows, and reflections using 3D visualization software are as critical as materials used to make the car, miles per gallon specifications, or any other aspect that goes into designing a car.
Autodesk software spans the gamut of initial concept all the way through production.
Also part of his brown bag lunch time talk, I was happy to hear that Project Falcon is a hit with the auto industry.
You too can see the effects on your designs just like the big auto makers. Check out Project Falcon on Autodesk Labs.
So the next time a car catches your eye as it glides through the wind on the highway, it's because it has been designed for both beauty and performance.
Emotional form is alive in the lab.