Phase Two

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2002-11-01 Print this article Print

Milestones along General Motors' route to becoming the first all-digital automaker.

Phase Two
Month 1: Prototype phase
Data Types: 3-D solid and surface models, requirements data, bill of materials
Storage Requirement: 0.5 GB

Based on the specs, designers come up with themes and start generating concepts—with paper and pencil. That's where the manual process ends and the digital execution takes over.

As many as nine initial concept sketches are developed into prototypes—turned into three-dimensional representations for review. In the past, this would have meant having a sculptor create a clay model from the drawings.

There are still sculptors at GM. But now, many of them are "math sculptors," who do their work with pixels and polygons instead of clay. Rather than passing the drawings on to a sculptor for rendering as a clay model, the sculptors digitally scan them and bring the images into AutoStudio. The sculptor then converts the two-dimensional end and side views into a three-dimensional surface model.

The surface models are then converted to Unigraphics design files. While Alias can simu- late how the surfaces and styling of a car will look with paint on it, the design software creates models that go under the surface, allowing designers to break the surface down into body panels and electronically construct the "body-in-white" (the skeleton that will support the body work) so engineers can evaluate the design and whether it can be built.

With the prototypes ready, the GM manager in charge of the product line, the chief designer and members of GM's senior management team conduct a first design review. This now takes place at the VR Center at Warren; a similar, smaller facility at Opel's headquarters in Russelsheim, Germany, also can participate. From the review, three prototypes are selected to be developed into full concept vehicles.


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