Design, Manufacture, Test as Told by McLaren

It costs absolutely the same amount of money to make a car look ugly as it does to make it look beautiful.

Regarding the McLaren design language:

…it’s not coming from just aesthetics. It’s very easy to design a sexy car; a dramatic looking car. That’s not what design, for me, is all about. It’s more about doing efficient design that has a reason for being.

(emphasis mine)

Frank Stephenson, automotive designer and Director of Styling at McLaren Automotive

While it can be interesting to hear the designer wax poetic about design philosophy it’s even more interesting seeing how the design comes to life:

Even better to see the product perform as designed:

Deus Ex Machina 1200 Street Tracker

Deus Ex Machina transforms vintage motorcycles into modern machines of mayhem while staying to true the original heritage. Check out the step-by-step photos of this 1200 Street Tracker:

And while we’re on the topic, why not check out some of the Deus creations rippin’ at Harold Park Paceway:

Deus Ex Machina – Harold Park Paceway Revisited from Deus Customs on Vimeo.

Creature Design Enabled by 5-Axis CNC

Details on the product design and build process are rarely presented in the comprehensive, concise fashion of this video from John Cox’s Creature Workshop. Sure, he’s building limited run sculptures for the entertainment industry but the process of sculpting, scanning, processing, machining, and assembling is common to many design industries. Plus, I love seeing practical applications of 5-axis CNC machining.

Here are some photos of the process:

Sculpture Scanning
Scanning

Processing
Processing

Machining
Machining

Comment

Beautiful Deconstruction

Photographer Todd McLellan takes the product take-apart to a new level by artistically arranging the parts and photographing them, then photographing the parts, presumably, being tossed into the air.

The products he takes apart are a few technological generations old but it is still insightful to see how they look on the inside and marvel at the complexity. Younger engineers will be amazed at the level of detail achievable in the pre-CAD era.

More at http://www.toddmclellan.com/; click the “New Work” link on the left and have a look at the video of the deconstruction and photography process.

Comment

Moldflow and FEA

Moldflow Algor Interop

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s nothing like having a prototype to evaluate (The Value of Physical Prototypes & Moldflow and Part Visualization). This is mostly due to the fact that simulations that represent real-world performance are timely and costly to develop. I can’t remember an instance when I relied on FEA alone without empirical testing to establish actual performance of the simulation.

Autodesk is getting closer to bridging this gap between simulation and the real world by integrating key features of its large software portfolio. The first thing they did that impressed me was their integration of Moldflow and Showcase to aid in the visualization of cosmetic defects on plastic parts (re-link: Moldflow and Part Visualization).

Even more interesting and, in my opinion, useful, is their interoperability between Moldflow and Algor (FEA/mechanical simulation) which addresses the issue of simulated material properties vs. real-world material properties. Typically material properties are applied to FEA models with the assumption they are isotropic. But most injection molded plastics are anisotropic. The real material properties of injection molded plastic parts are dependent on many factors. Flow of material through the mold is an important one since it is the material flow that determines fiber and molecular orientation. This is especially important in the case of glass-filled resins; the strength in the direction of the glass fibers is greater than in the transverse direction. The magic bit of the Autodesk offering is that Moldflow results can be imported into Algor where they are used to calculate material properties at each point in the FEA mesh, better representing the plastic part coming out of the mold. Different gate locations and process parameters can be simulated through both Moldflow and Algor to determine how to maximize the performance of the part in critical areas.

Moldflow Algor Interop

It’s not going to eliminate the need for empirical testing of final parts but it definitely helps in optimizing designs early in the process.

{Update February 22, 2011: Thanks to Bob Williams (@ADSKsimulation) for the link to the video}

Have your say in the forums

The Value of Physical Prototypes

I watched the first 4 installments of BBC’s Design for Life on a plane over the Pacific and found the last 2 episodes on Vimeo. The show is pretty much The Apprentice with Philippe at the helm. Plus I think the show illustrates how truly difficult it is to conceive and develop a product from a blank slate. Week after week young designers struggle to prove their design prowess to Philippe and usually fall short by under-delivering or missing the point completely. One week Philippe sent 4 designers packing.

The most profound moment of the show happened in episode 5. After weeks of failing to convince Starck that her new standing/walking aid for the elderly had merit, contestant Ilsa Parry presented the prototype. After merely looking at the proto Philippe’s attitude changed completely. After trying the product for himself he was sold.

Great that Ilsa persevered and continued to drive the vision of her product. Great that the rest of us can witness the power of the prototype in a real-world situation.

The entire series is available on Vimeo:

Design for Life Episode 1
Design for Life Episode 2
Design for Life Episode 3
Design for Life Episode 4
Design for Life Episode 5
Design for Life Episode 6

Design for Life | Episode 5 from designforlife on Vimeo.

Comment now in the Form Loves Function Forum.

Moldflow and Part Visualization

For a while now Autodesk has been talking about digital prototyping as a means to save on costs of real, physical prototypes. True that their portfolio is quite comprehensive but there is nothing like a real, physical model for testing and evaluation. More often than not I have been able to build, test, and tweak a prototype more quickly than setting up a simulation and waiting for it to run. That said, simulations have their place in the design process and Autodesk worked out an interesting integration between 2 seemingly disparate products.

Moldflow is a great tool for evaluating plastic parts and the associated tooling and processing during the execution stage of the design cycle. Showcase is a rendering/visualization tool used primarily by upstream industrial designers. Autodesk has put together a great workflow allowing users to extract geometry from the Moldflow package and visualize it within the Showcase environment. It’s not quite as good as cutting steel and shooting parts, but definitely more cost effective.

Moldflow Insight

Comments are happening on the new Form Loves Function Discussion Forum.

Surface Continuity

@StudioClues and I had an interesting discussion over Twitter about the merits of curvature and surface continuity in product design. While we designers and CAD sculptors geek out on the technicalities of making G2 happen, it’s important to remember that curvature continuity is not a design goal in and of itself, merely a modeling problem for the capture of design intent.

Thomas’ main concern was valid, “can end users really tell the difference between a painstaking sculpted G2+ surface and a radial fillet?” Maybe. Maybe not. I certainly can. Always makes me wonder why the designers let it slip when I see bad curvature breaks. Low quality surfacing implies low quality product, IM(v)HO.

Here is a pretty good description of what we’re talking about:

I’m also happy to see that Autodesk Alias 2011 will have G3 continuity built in:

For some insight on why we actually care about curvature continuity, have a look at this: On Form, Curvature, and Emotion.

Comments are happening on the new Form Loves Function Discussion Forum.

5 Axis CNC Machining of Helmet from Aluminum Billet

Amazing work with this 5-axis CNC. I was impressed with the deep undercuts achievable with long cutters and clever programming and the fact the the finish-pass was done so cleanly in one setup.

Company: Daishin
Material: A7N01-T6 Aluminum
Cycle Time: I’d love to know

Hat tip: C. Sven of ReBang