2021.12.02 Hyundai Motor Group

Digital Design: Essential for Innovative Automotive Design

Hyundai Motor Group
Since digital technology has been used in automotive design, the development period has been shortened, efficiency has improved, and perfection has increased - But what exactly is digital design?

From the consumers' perspective who actually use the product, the role of car design may only be to serve visual aesthetics. However, design is not just the result of pursuing beauty or coolness. All designs have an intention, and sometimes they are refined according to function. The design also provides a better experience for users and makes them easily accept the brand's values. These days, when the performance and quality of automobiles have been leveled up, their importance is growing as a weapon for differentiating brand values. This would be the same for any product, not just automobiles.

It goes through numerous processes before the initial design sketch becomes a real car.

How are beautiful and functional car designs created? It would be great if the designers could realize their creative design as they intended, but car design is not so simple; their creativity has to be consummate with other safety requirements or practicality in order for the vehicle to actually run on roads. In other words, the design of a mass-produced car is completed only when the designer and the engineer both fulfilled their needs. Digital design plays a role in facilitating smooth communication in this collaborative process.

What is digital design for automobiles?

Digital design leads to close collaboration between automotive stylists and engineers and it is an important process that can make an initial idea turn into mass production.

This is how automotive design is created:

(1) 2D sketch design → (2) design concept → (3) 3D digital modeling (CAS) → (4) video (VR model) and clay model production → (5) design selection → (6) High-quality digital data - computer-aided design (CAD) - for mass production → (7) real-sized model production with engineering elements applied for data verification → (8) final design data for mass-production

However, this process is not necessarily fixed. Numerous revisions and corrections occur between each step. Among the whole process, the digital design process includes 3D digital modeling, video and real-sized model production, and digital data production mass production.

The introduction of digital design not only reduced the time and cost of making clay models but also increased the efficiency of design development.

In the past, based on the 2D sketch design, the final design was refined manually by creating a miniature or actual car-sized clay model of a real car. As mentioned earlier, since car design requires a variety of requirements, it had to go through a lot of modifications while making a clay model, and a lot of time and resources were consumed in this process.

However, since the 1990s, the digital design system that can quickly process design drawing creation, review, and revision within a computer program was introduced, hence design efficiency increased rapidly. This means it brought innovation in the manufacturing industry, where cost reduction and time reduction are key.

Sketch design (top) and digital data image (bottom) of Genesis GV60

For both interior and exterior design, digital design is divided into prior design and mass production design. Prior design is the work - Computer Aided Styling (CAS) - which uses various 3D programs such as Alias and Maya to produce existing 2D sketches as 3D data. This is the process of building a 3D model that can be looked at in more detail, much like examining a real car. At this stage, there is no need to carefully consider the design conditions for mass production yet, so designers focus on the aesthetics and styling of the design while maintaining the initial innovative concept.

Sketch design (top) and digital data image (bottom) of Genesis GV60

The mass production design process is as follows; High-quality digital data is produced using 3D production programs such as CATIA and Alias to create mass-produced products while maintaining creative design concepts as much as possible without colliding with the complex structure of automobiles made up of tens of thousands of parts - Computer-Aided Design (CAD). During the design process, they have to consider various structures, molds, and crash conditions for each part of the car. And in the cabin design, they take into account factors such as usability and control that the driver actually experiences while using the car.

What are the effects of digital design?

Hyundai Motor Company began to actively use VR design evaluation using cutting-edge digital technology since March 2019.

The effects of digital design systems are quite varied. By reducing the consumption of time and resources, it is possible to not only increase the efficiency of new car design development, but also to process the communication process in the design department and related departments more quickly. This is because, while sharing digital data, an immediate review is made, and parts that need correction can be shared in real-time.

As such, the strength of the digital design is that it is possible to quickly process work online; and this advantage is maximized in the evaluation and revision stage in virtual reality using Virtual Reality (VR) devices. Hyundai Motor Company introduced VR design evaluation in March 2019 to promote innovation in the design process.

Through VR design evaluation, designers can verify a design or its completeness as if experiencing a real car.

In VR design evaluation, designers wear a Head Mounted Display (HMD) to three-dimensionally check and modify digital models in virtual reality. Thanks to the design work being done in a virtual space where physical constraints have disappeared, it is possible to easily compare and review numerous digital models with various designs, colors, and materials applied. By adjusting the intensity and angle of the light and the weather, it is also possible to predict what a car will look like during the day and at night. The same goes for the interior design. It is possible to verify in advance the overall completeness, such as the visual texture of the indoor space, the location, and ratio of each part, as well as the amount of light reflected and the angle of reflection that vary depending on the material of the room.

Using VR design evaluation, designers can conduct evaluations as if they were in the same space with designers from overseas design studios.

The disappearance of physical constraints such as time and space means that collaboration with other departments as well as overseas design studios can be made more smoothly. Collaboration and rapid work processes allow more innovative attempts than ever before in a limited amount of time, which can lead to improved overall design quality. In addition, it has the advantage of being able to thoroughly and reliably verify the design from the initial stage of design development, minimizing problems that may occur during the mass-production design process.

It is important not only to evaluate the design in virtual space but also to verify the real model using a 3D printer.

Of course, the verification process through seeing and touching the actual model is also important, so along with VR design evaluation, all or part of the model is produced and verified using a 3D printer. In particular, the 3D printer model verification step is also very important because it is necessary to check the actual operation of parts using multiple materials or moving parts such as doors and center consoles. Once the design is finalized after going through several stages, the next stage begins - mass-production design. This is the stage to review whether the data produced by the CAD program is suitable for mass production while sharing it with the engineering design team, and to supplement the necessary parts.

The 1:1 physical model production process is also an important part of design development. By checking the data in real life, designers can make sure of the consistency of the data and the implementation of the design.

In the design development process, the stage of manufacturing and verifying a real-sized model is one of the most important stages to complete the car design. Based on the completed mass production data, using a milling machine or 3D printer, a body made of various materials such as resin is produced in a 1:1 ratio. Then, it checks the real model of the actual proportions and checks and corrects any flaws that were not found in the data. In this way, a true automobile design that reflects all the conditions that an automobile must have, such as design, structure, and mass production capability, is completed.

As such, digital design is used throughout the automotive design process, contributing to the improvement of design quality and completeness, and playing an important role in enhancing work efficiency. In the process of developing a car that is evolving into a smart mobility device, it is to actively utilize cutting-edge digital technology that is rapidly developing. The benefits obtained from this process also help the overall completeness of the car. If you look at the design of automobiles that are developing day by day, you can see the secret lying beneath it.

HMG Journal Operation Team


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