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How design and digital prototyping solutions help EV companies get to market faster

The advent of e-mobility has enabled a wave of start-ups to make their way into the automotive domain, which traditionally had huge barriers to entry. Software solutions are acting as leveller technologies that shorten the learning curve and enable start-ups as well as established players to pursue accelerated product development. These advanced software facilitate collaborative workflows, timely validation of ideas and faster time to market while taking into account the constraints of time, manpower and budgets. In this article, we take a look at how software solutions by Autodesk are helping EV companies with their design and digital prototyping requirements.

Tesla Motors used Autodesk Alias Surface software for digital prototyping of the world’s first electric supercar, the Tesla Roadster in 2006 as well as Model S. Closer to home, the Indian pioneer of e-mobility Ather Energy used Autodesk’s design and modelling software to bring to life the aesthetic and functional vision of the team.

Designing Ather 450 and Ather Point

Revolutionary ideas can often be difficult to design. Alongside styling and aesthetics, product design also includes solving problems and packaging subsystems together. Start-ups need tools that let them be fluid and flexible during the initial design phase to do justice to the final product. 

For instance, to design the electric scooter Ather 450, the company took an ‘outside in’ approach – starting with the aesthetics and developing the vehicle architecture with the design in mind. This approach was flipped in the development of Ather Point (charging pod). The team worked out the internal subsystems first and then designed the final product accordingly. 

The design team at Ather used ALIAS to build realistic-looking 3D models from product sketches and VRED’s VR capabilities for high quality rendering for all pre-production marketing collateral.

3D Modelling

Source: Autodesk and Ather Energy. Using the fast concept modelling and high-quality precision surfacing functionalities, ALIAS Surface creates advanced surfaces, curves, and forms to build designs with customisable features and aesthetics.

The following steps map out the traditional workflow for automotive design, with different software being used at each stage.

Sketching -> CAD Tools -> Rendering -> Prototype -> Testing

ALIAS Surface eliminated the need to rely on another CAD visualisation tool in the design process at Ather. It provided a Hardware Shade function that helps designers select from available materials and colours to save time in rendering the model. This is especially useful in the early design stages when the concept is still iterative.

Rendering and Prototyping

After the modelling phase, the designers usually move on to the physical prototype stage to decide on the size and proportion of the model. The time and costs for creating physical prototypes at this stage can be saved using a rendering software which allows for visualisation of the product design, size and proportions on a real scale.

Source: Autodesk and Ather Energy

While it is difficult to gauge the size and scale of the product on a computer screen, the VR capability of VRED helps with real-life visualisation, enabling teams to experience a design without waiting weeks or months for a physical prototype. VRED also helps design teams quickly experiment with material, colour and trim options.

This can be a major boost in getting to market quicker. Ather also used VRED’s high quality rendering capabilities and Virtual Reality Support for all digital prototypes and pre-production marketing collaterals. 

Alfonso Albaisa, Senior VP, Global Design at Nissan Motor says, “VRED helps make the invisible visible and is a way to communicate and connect with the creatives in the organisation. Digital solutions allow us to do more with the same amount of resources. I can literally see a car in a day which did not exist yesterday (using VR)”.

Concluding thoughts

Time to market is of essence for e-mobility companies today. Simulation softwares like ALIAS and VRED enable companies to experiment and assess their ideas with quick visualisation and rendering, helping them find roadblocks and problems early in the process. Digital design data can be easily exchanged between design and engineering teams through collaborative workflows, enabling them to build their vision with optimum use of resources.

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