Remember the Delorean car in the Back To The Future movie? Or some of the earlier Supercars?
Every one of these cars started out as an idea, a concept, and eventually came into existence. Visiting one of the world’s leading car shows such as the Detroit Auto Show gives people a glimpse of the future of automotive design & functionality. As we move towards the electric car being an everyday reality, what does the future of automotive prototyping hold in store for us?
Prototyping is a crucial stage in the process of getting a product design into a serial production run. Along the path to serial production, having dimensionally precise models of each iteration of a design is important.
What Is a Prototype?
Concept cars, known as “prototypes” are the vehicles made to demonstrate new developments in features and design. Typically, these aren’t designed for mass-scale production. But instead, they are meant to gauge practicality & popularity among their audience/consumers. Prototypes are a key fixture at the auto shows worldwide, where extravagant design usually draws the crowd!
Major Design Developments
Automakers typically create a prototype to show off a major new feature or development. These automobiles usually represent a drastic, noticeable change from their predecessors, which often means amazing design elements using exotic materials, non-traditional wheelbases, unusual doors and windows, and futuristic technical developments.
Many new design elements are created simply for the public’s attention while others can be suggestive of future models and the trend of the automotive industry’s future. Especially now, as we are hearing more about electric powered cars and self-driving technology, prototypes can foreshadow big changes in the industry!
Some services that automotive producers offer
- Design studies
- Setting up test rigs & demonstrations of technology involved
- Short-run productions of sheet-metal & plastic parts
- Exhibits of product demonstration
- Once-off productions & reproductions
- Dimensioning & modelling, and
- Reverse engineering
In prototyping, manufacturers can perform varying degrees of skills to a production. These can range from graphic design to reverse engineering. From model reconstruction, right through to fully functioning vehicles.
Modelling can be painstaking work done by skilled craftsmen. The end model gives an idea of samples for the final vehicle & its components.
Rapid prototyping facilities allow manufacturers to produce components to high tolerance levels. Starting with 3D design data, plastic components are produced on a three-dimensional printer, directly from a CAD program but without any huge manual effort.
Applying stereo lithography (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS) and fuse deposition modelling (FDM) allow this.
The rapid model can then be used before production begins, to highlight true-to-detail characteristics & features of the defined final product.
With automobiles such as hybrid machines, like the Toyota Prius to the latest fully electric Tesla paving the way for the electric cars era, automobile industry trends are both fascinating & confusing. The prototype cars of tomorrow are helping you to predict the direction of this volatile industry – where the electric cars that were once a sci-fi notion will become a mainstream solution to everyday personal transport.