Creative freedom but with the accuracy of CAD

By using design and visualisation software, Land Rover has completed its new concept vehicle in just nine months. Dean Palmer reports

By using design and visualisation software, Land Rover has completed its new concept vehicle in just nine months. Dean Palmer reports

"Studio Tools gives our designers the freedom for creativity and the precision of CAD software so that as the vehicle was modelled in 3D and final surfaces were rendered, the data was kept at a precise level of accuracy suitable for final production," explained Richard Woolley, design studio director at Land Rover.

He continued: "We've used Alias' design software for many years and it's a vital part of our workflow. The Range Stormer [concept car] is the first of an exciting new breed of cars for us, so we wanted to really exploit the capabilities of the software by throwing off some of the constraints that apply when designing a production car."

Woolley said that Alias' Studio Tools design and visualisation software played a major part in getting the company's new 'Range Stormer' sports utility vehicle to market in just nine months. A team of modellers and designers started the project in March 2003 working to a final deadline for an engineering-ready design to be produced for August last year.

Initial ideas for the car were drawn on paper, with team members contributing to each part of the vehicle design. Using Studio Tools, these concepts were then digitally sketched, modelled and presented as visualisations. As Woolley said: "The ideas gelled very quickly using this process, so it was easy to move from this stage to passing the initial design ideas to the Computer Aided Styling [CAS] team at Land Rover for the precise data work."

While Studio Tools provided the Range Stormer team with consistent and reliable 3D modelling data as the backbone of the design and manufacturing process, collaborative visualisation was also at the core of the project. Land Rover's 'Power Wall' - a life size display area onto which any digital media can be projected - sits at the heart of the design studio, surrounded by artists, designers and CAS modellers working on the project.

Ian Radburn, CAS modelling supervisor at Land Rover, commented: "Being able to project visualisations straight from Studio Tools to the screen enables us to be very clear about what is being proposed. Having the Power Wall at the centre of the studio means that it is visible to all involved and there's a clear focus to the whole project.

"The visualisation stage is really a turning point for any design; it is the moment at which the car goes from being ideas on paper to a tangible representation of the finished article. Studio Tools has really given us the perfect means to take full advantage of this stage of our design workflow," he added.

In order to improve communication between design and engineering, Land Rover had to integrate Studio Tools with its existing 3D CAD software, Catia. This enabled Studio Tools to read and write Catia file format for efficient and accurate data exchange.

Once the Range Stormer designs were finalised, the digital models and parts were shipped to Italy, where specialist producer of concept cars Stola then put together the finished vehicle. The final car was ready for its debut by mid-December 2003, just nine months after the project began.

Radburn: "The software and its advanced visualisation was one of the key factors in getting the project finished so quickly. The whole reasoning behind using Alias' software throughout the design, is that when the car is produced, there are no surprises. The final model is exactly what was seen at the visualisation stage."

He also said that Studio Tools ensured the team had consistent data and a smooth transition from initial 3D models, to SLA or 5-axis cutting, through to final product output. "Three out of five specialist parts manufacturers we spoke to about the project said that it couldn't be done in the timeframe we wanted. Studio Tools played a big part in proving them wrong," concluded Radburn.

Pointers

* Using design and visualisation software integrated to 3D CAD, Land Rover completed its new concept car in just nine months

* Initial design ideas were drawn on paper, then digitally sketched, modelled and presented as visualisations on Land Rover's life size display screen

* Studio Tools ensured the team had consistent data and a smooth transition from initial 3D models, to SLA or five-axis cutting, through to the final product

Author
Tom Shelley

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