Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Since introducing the Rally Fighter and its pedigree as a both desert racer, and a pavement pounder that will use diesel technology, I constantly get the question as to why we aren't using a V10 or V8 engine. One main reason is the weight of such diesel powerplants which is astronomical compared to their smaller sibling, the V6 diesel. As you can see from last night's post and the information on the Rally Fighter Vehicle Build section of the website which gives further details on the subject, there is a growing trend in engine production:

Downsizing the displacement, but maintaining (and in some cases increasing) the performance.

Coincidentally, I read this market study in the SEMA eNews today confirming this fact. Take a look at the charts from the article for consumer trends over the last couple years. I think we're on the right track.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Plan B - Engine Selection

Here's the latest on the search for alternate engines as post on the Rally Fighter "Vehicle Build" section of the LM website as posted by Dave:

With any good business you do your best to ensure that you have a back up plan particularly for anything deemed critically necessary to operate. You back up computer data, sometimes you store physical prototypes or even separate parts of the business even as far apart as being in different parts of the world. Who knows what may occur...wars, fires, etc.?

Basically, you should protect your business. In the case of motors, Local Motors will not produce them, yet it is clearly a critical part of the vehicle. So what if supply is limited, costs drastically jump, or something much more efficient comes along? We want to have the ability to change motors, and change quickly, so we need a back up, and we need to reduce what physically would need to be re-engineered to do it. Therefore we need to do our best to anticipate and engineer around what they may be.

The photos here show some of the potential motors that we want to be able to fit into the Rally Fighter Chassis without major modification. From top to bottom, not in any particular choice order Ford Duratec 35, Cadillac 2.9L Diesel, BMW 3.0L Diesel, Cadillac 4.5L Diesel, Mercedes 3.0L Diesel.

Cadillac 2.9L Diesel

See the links above for Dave's further comments on some of our thoughts and potential choices.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sounds Nice, But....

....will the promises become reality?

The promises I speak of are those of GM, and how they plan to turn things around with the Bailout money. In a post I read today, they also apologize for letting the people of the United States down with lackluster design and less than stellar quality. Any self respecting car aficionado, or even someone who doesn't necessarily have a passion for cars, but an eye for detail could have said these issues have been allowed to continue for years beyond their welcome. I'm still amazed at how things have come to this state, when it seems obvious to me and many people like me that the US automakers have been going about business all wrong for far too long. To people like us, it seems so easy to design and engineer a car that people want, and do it so that it doesn't only look good, but it's manufactured to be reliable and perform well in its class.

But as Jay mentioned in a previous blog post, maybe the Big Three haven't been listening to their devout followers all this time, whether it came from their dealer networks or their internet networks - the user forums.

I don't know if it's possible the "old dogs" in Detroit to learn the new tricks (delivering game changing vehicles that people want to buy and delivering unparalleled customer service of those vehicles) that companies like LM consider to be job #1.

Time will tell.

Here is a sample of the GM list of promises:

• producing automobiles you want to buy and are excited to own
• leading the reinvention of the automobile based on promising new technology
• focusing on our core brands to consistently deliver on their promises
• streamlining our dealer network to ensure the best sales and service
• ensuring sacrifices are shared by all GM stakeholders
• meeting appropriate standards for executive pay and corporate governance
• working with our unions to quickly realize competitive wages and benefits
• reducing U.S. dependence on imported oil
• protecting our environment
• paying you back the entire loan with appropriate oversight and returns

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bailout? What for?

Once again proving that she's a maven in keeping a finger on the pulse of the automotive community and what the buzz is within it, Ari sent me a link to a recent webpost on xconomy.com today. The article deals with the upswing in VC interest in automotive startups focusing on how a lot of investment has been made in companies that are looking to improve energy efficiency of conventional vehicles, rather than the development of one-off vehicles costing in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Several of the companies mentioned we have already been following and/or have visited including A123 Systems, Achates Power and Geo2 Technologies.

The article also makes note of something that Ari, Jay and I have mentioned several times in our blogs, whether it be the Life, Vision, or Engineering blogs respectively:


The agility to recognize what the multitude of startup companies in our field are accomplishing and quickly and effectively incorporate those technologies that fit our ethos, as well as that of our customers. This is why it is so important to stay on top of all the innovations that are being made on a daily basis within our field, and never turn a blind eye to any technology that could be a fit for the Rally Fighter, or even for several designs down the road that we haven't yet begun to so little as create a sketch on a napkin for. To repeat myself, this is something that the large auto manufacturers have an inability to do, and is a huge reason for the proposed "Bailout", as referenced by one industry professional in the article,

"Bill Klehm, CEO of Fallbrook Technologies, a San Diego startup which itself has raised some $25 million to help it develop a gearless transmission, says he laughs when he hears Detroit auto executives fret about competing against China's low-cost manufacturing. "Nobody should be worried that the Chinese are coming," Klehm says. "But the U.S. automakers should be concerned that the U.S. entrepreneurs are coming."

He also goes on to state,

"Companies and small businesses that operate delivery fleets are searching for ways they can retrofit their trucks and vans to reduce fuel costs, which were acutely painful when gasoline was more than $4 a gallon, Klehm says. At Wal-Mart, for example, Klehm says a 1 percent improvement in fuel economy is worth $52 million. 'Ford is talking about improving the fuel economy of next year's lineup,' he says. 'Fleet operators need solutions today. They don't need promises for the next year.'"

The Rally Fighter (and any of the other vehicles we will roll out) is far from "conventional" in it's design, but could be an excellent platform for many of the technologies mentioned in this article, positioning us as the market leader in several categories within the green movement. Certainly the coolest looking and best performing vehicle, I think. Therefore, expect to hear more from us on companies such as those mentioned in the article.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Build Program

Today we had a great discussion about the LM Build Program.

Although I understand their importance in keeping the team updated on progress, discussing strategy etc., historically the engineer in me prefers to keep meetings to a minimum since they take me away from doing what I was brought here to do - physically creating the first LM prototype.

However, today's meeting and those like them that we frequently have in these early stages are always exciting and worthwhile to achieving the goals of the team. This is especially true in the case of the meeting today because the topic of discussion involved the structure of the build program and how we engineers will interact with the team members running the build program and of course the customers and their feedback from the build program to help us build a better vehicle and a better experience for the customer.

In the meeting we were able to bring together the key players in the development of the program, discuss the goals of the program and how to achieve them and set a go-forward plan. It's in meetings like this that I'm always reminded of how this ability to quickly identify the roadblocks to successful implementation of our business plan and make the necessary adaptations will be key to building great vehicles - something the larger corporations are no longer capable of due to the inherent bureaucracy that has left them gasping for air recently.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

THIS is Passion!

Today, Ari forwarded me a link about a very interesting build which I think is the pinnacle of passion and dedication.

The post covers the story of a man who decided to build his own Lamborghini Countach replica in his basement after seeing one in Cannonball Run. If you read the article, it mentions several times how when the car was done, it was "dragged out of the subterranean depths" or "extracted" from his basement. In reading the article, I thought this simply meant that the car had never seen the day of light over the 10 year build period, so they chose their words accordingly to hype the act of the car finally being finished. After finishing the article and looking at the pictures, I noticed that I read too far into it and they meant exactly what they said - the car was literally dragged from the basement after knocking down a section of the house's foundation! All along, I was thinking there was a garage door and a driveway leading up to the basement, but apparently not. I'm pretty passionate about cars (some more than others) and when it came time to build a replica of my favorite, I don't thing the thought of building a car in the basement knowing i'd have to tear a hole in my foundation once it was done and drag the car out would ever enter my mind as reasonable.

All the more reason to believe that maybe if there was a build program for the Lamborghini Countach somewhere near his home he may have been able to finish his dream with the same result, but faster and without the headache of worrying that the house would come crashing down on all of his hard work as it was dragged from the basement! This type of passion and dedication to an automotive dream is always inspiring...Go Local!

Love this quote, as it captures the essence of what any person feels when they've been inspired to do the unthinkable, and have their dream come to fruition:

"Actually getting the car out of the basement was pretty straight forward to be honest. I built a skid to put the car on — a trailer without wheels you might say. The rig is basically an angle iron frame designed to make it down into the basement to which I added 4 swivel casters to move the car to the opposite wall. We used an excavator to dig a ramp and then cut the block of the foundation out. We pushed the car to the opening, hooked it up to the excavator and pulled it out. Simple. I was like an expectant father watching it come through the wall. I was literally shaking and running the supposed plan over and over in my head. 'Have I overlooked anything? Is some of the wall going to fall on my work of seventeen years?...' The blankets I covered it with surely wouldn't stop that from happening, but I worried nonetheless, an it was in the end, worry for nothing. It went as smooth as something like this could. The neighbors started gathering around as it emerged, waiting for me to remove the blankets. It was like a artist unwrapping his masterpiece. I had never seen it in the light of day either. As the last blanket and car cover were removed I knew at that moment I had accomplished what I had dreamed about so many years ago and to see it sitting there in front of me was surreal. The whole process took two and a half hours and there it was, my Lamborghini safely in the garage. The next day we filled the hole in the basement with new block in no time it was good as new."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Continuing Talks with Fiberforge

We had a great call with Josh from Fiberforge today, discussing the possibilities of incorporating their technology in the Rally Fighter and future LM models. With each discussion, we learn more about the technology and what parts we could use it for, and how to manufacture those parts for the best results.

It's all going to come down to finding the part that is the right fit for our ideals of lightweight, rigidity, sustainability just to name a few key things, and of course, cost. The Fiberforge technology seems to make the most sense in replacing parts made from flat planes in areas with complex curvature and a deep draw where rigidity is key.

Check out the link above for a look at their updated website to follow along with their cutting edge process, just as we have done over the last few months.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Who Says We're Too Old to Still Be Playing with Clay?

Today I received some photos from Steve at Automotive Technology Group, who has been handling the milling of the 1/4 scale model, and most recently the clay model which is also 1/4 scale. As you can see from the photos, it looks amazing and I can't wait to see it in person, but for now it will be in the hands of West Coast design team of Ben and Dale (with Aurel back here in Wareham offering support) so the next round of the design process can commence in the most efficient and effective manner possible. We engineers, will just have to continue working in the virtual world for now.

There's still some fine tuning that needs to be done on the model, so once that is complete I will have more pictures to share, so stay tuned...

Monday, October 20, 2008

No Alternative?

An article on msnbc.com today discusses the notion that as oil prices have temporarily declined, and although they may spike back up somewhat, if they remain low on the whole, the sense of urgency to develop alternative power sources and implement them into new autos also declines.

Some say that this is a dangerous mindset to adopt for long term auto manufacturing since "designing and ramping up production of a new car takes five years," according to a Toyota Prius designer.

Enter Local Motors...

Instead of looking at just the power plant as the source of ending dependence on oil, we're considering better use of petroleum based power in our early goings concentrating on perfecting weight balance, materials usage etc. to stretch the efficiency of current technology. This will allow us to get a jump-start on that "five year" time line as we will keep in mind that using an alternative power source is possible for the future. Therefore, when the need for that switch becomes more urgent, we can implement one into an existing platform, significantly reducing time to production of new vehicles.

We can also cut down that five year schedule he mentions like it's an industry standard and there's no way around by re-writing the book on how cars are made. When paired with what's in the car, we will have great success in offering an alternative vehicle, and doing so quickly between the staff at LM and our community of designers.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Model

Here's a look at the latest creation from the 3D printer...

It's another wheel/tire that we will use with one of our scale models, but the difference from the original wheel and tire combo we first made is that this model is a bigger rim (20" vs. 17") and lower profile tire. We'll use the new wheel/tire combination to assess the feasibility of the Rally Fighter at a much lower stance than the off-road configuration. These images are of the wheels fresh out of the printer, so not to worry, once the final prep work has been done, the true color of the wheels (Aluminum) and the tire will come out and will help the models to really pop when you see them, which could actually be in person if you plan on attending the meetings our team has set up on the west coast as referenced in Ari's Blog!

Not to worry if you can't make it - we'll be sure to post plenty of pictures of the new clay model with the wheels in place so we can gather your all important feedback on the latest iteration of the mighty Rally Fighter, so stay dialed in!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Latest Engineering And Design Data come Together

Here's an update from the LM skunk works...

This is a pairing of the latest surface data from Dale and what Dave and I have been working on over the last week. You can see that the engine is in place as well as the suspension both front and rear. We've been inserting as many components as possible into the assembly to package the vehicle and design the chassis. One of the main things we're using the model for is to check suspension travel and how it affects both packaging and performance.

Stay tuned for more info and images on those studies.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Design Engineer vs. Designer

I was asked today what the difference between a Design Engineer and a Designer is.

I suppose the quick answer to the fundamental difference between these two can be stated in another "one vs. the other" phrase: Engineering vs. Art. I think this is especially true when you're talking Design Engineering vs. Transportation Design.

Now, that isn't to say that there's some shared knowledge between the two and each person doesn't possess some of the skills that the person on the other side of the label has, but each person has a particular focus on either engineering or design, sometimes supplemented by the other. This is in fact the classic definition of both the terms Mechanical Engineer and Design Engineer (Mechanical Engineer being the more broad, umbrella title which may encompass more than just design). Speaking in terms of the difference between a Design Engineer and a Designer (someone other than a Transportation Designer which would be more toward the Art side of things. Think CAD Operator, drafter etc.) the Design Engineer typically leads the design effort using engineering to decide WHAT is to be designed and the designer will carry out the actual process of designing the part given the engineering guidelines. Once again, it is possible that each person possesses some knowledge of what the other person needs to complete the task, but each has a particular focus in the overall goal.

It is this ability to cross boundaries within oneself and to create cross pollination amongst a group of Designers (of many types), Design Engineers and non technical people that makes for the most informed and as a result successful units, and that is exactly the type of team and community working relationship we hope to harbor. One such example is one that you may already be aware of if you've been reading the blogs of either Jay or Ari, in which they've spoken about our newest website utility - the Glossary. Check it out for terms not only about car design, or engineering, but anything LM!

Maybe I should add these terms to the Glossary? Hmm....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Build Program Inspiration

For anyone questioning how successful a factory-assist build program can be, take a look at what one college student is doing from scratch in his own garage. (Check out his Flikr page for more pics)

Doesn't get more DIY than setting out to build a replica using a welder made from spare microwave parts.

This just shows what's achievable if you have the desire. However, some of our fellow car lovers may not have the skill, the time, or the facilities to accomplish a build like replicating the Ariel Atom, or any other one of your favorite autos. Enter the factory assist build program. Being so close to this atmosphere for several years now, I often forget just how far people are willing to let their desires drive them, even as I traverse the same course as people like this just as I was today while mocking up the suspension in SolidWorks today. Seeing things like this is a huge source of inspiration for me as we push forward towards delivering a vehicle that someone can build at our factory and continue to work on it/modify it once they get it home without concern of getting in over their head, having put the vehicle together in the factory-assist program, building on their existing knowledge of cars, but more importantly, fufilling that desire to do it themselves.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Rally Fighter, Only Smaller!

If you've been following along with the build process on the LM Website, you will know that our team has been working hard to coordinate the milling of a 1/4 scale model between our designers on the West Coast and our team here at Home Base in Wareham.

We finally have the model in our grasp (well at least Ben and Dale do out in California) and we've put the wheels we printed in the wheel wells for a more accurate analysis.

Instead of having he model shipped to us right away, we've decided to leave the model with our designers initially so they can accurately assess the lines and make all of the necessary changes for our next iteration, of which we will also have a model made. When the designers are happy with the adjustments of the first model, final review will be in the hands of the team back here on the East Coast. Then, the changes the design team made will be paired with the suggestions of our team here and applied to the digital model for the second model.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

SolidWorks User Conference

For the first time since joining the LM team, I had the experience of walking into an industry event and having someone I had never met before recognize the Local Motors name on my shirt and immediately fire away with questions on our progress. Several people actually. From my vast experience of traveling to shows, races and exhibitions with Factory Five Racing, the best part of this is always the enthusiasm that shines through in people's faces when they are faced with the chance to speak with a member of the team. And when they find out that you're a member of the engineering team, the excitement can often increase exponentially when they realize they can have all of their technical questions answered and gain some insight into what's next.

The event I'm speaking of is the North Eastern SolidWorks User Conference. A good deal of this attention was due to some of our suppliers, JMR Systems (the Value Added Reseller for RapidForm) and Paperless Parts (VAR for the ZCorp Scanner and Z510 Printer), namely Jim and Jane Greene (JMR Systems)/Maarten Houben (RapidForm), and Jason Bassi and Rob Masek of Paperless Parts spreading the word of how we've integrated their systems to develop our first prototype. To date, the working relationship with each of these suppliers has been a good one and their products have helped us produce prototype parts quickly and effectively allowing us to maintain our goals of time, budget and scope during the development process as many of my previous posts have shown.

In speaking with both teams today, and after they had a chance to see how successful we've been in using their products and how the reps from other companies in attendance could relate to our story, I was privy to other technologies they're currently developing that may help us not only in the realm of prototyping, but production.

Stay tuned for more news from the field as these types of events and newly established engineering networks are solidified.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Help from the Feds

In my effort to keep a close eye on what other car manufacturers intending to change the game are up to, I discovered today that the larger auto manufacturers, and most recently some of the loan industry and insurance industry giants like AIG aren't the only companies receiving help from the Federal Government.

reports that you can now add Tesla to that list

Now, I have to say that of course in the case of companies like AIG, the government isn't "stepping in" to help Tesla in a time of turmoil like we've seen over the past few days, but rather as an effort to turn a new corner in the way we make automobiles. The U.S. Department of Energy has granted Tesla Motors a guaranteed loan (along with other private financiers including Goldman Sachs Group) to help them build their $250 million manufacturing facility.

This government assistance is yet another interesting new trend we will have to continue to monitor as it seems that the Feds are considering offering such loans to companies manufacturing fuel efficient vehicles and vehicles using cutting edge technology.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It Cuts Time and Saves Cost

As I mentioned in my last post, I reverse engineered the tire we're going to use on our prototype and mated it to a wheel that I downloaded from 3D Content Central. Well,
today I have that wheel and tire (in 1/4 scale) in hand! I hit start on the printer just before leaving for the evening, and in just over 4 hours received an email right from the printer that the model had completed. When I arrived this morning Dave was already removing the wheel and tire from the printer, and shortly after that, it was ready to ship out to Ben so he could place it on the 1/4 scale model.

With every part we print, I am continuously amazed at the level of detail that carries over from the digital model to the physical part. This is especially true for the wheel and tire since I modeled them at full scale (the tire is over 30 inches in diameter) and then scaled them to 1/4 of that size. Every little detail right down to the fillets I made (1/4" radius at full scale) to create smooth transitions where the nubs of the tire meet the tube portion of the tire show up in the model.

Take a look at the images below for a comparison of the digital model in SolidWorks and the actual part from the ZCorp printer.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Putting the Printer Through Its Paces Yet Again

Now that we are in the phase of milling scale models of the Rally Fighter, it's time to fire up the ZCorp Rapid Prototyping (RP) Printer and make some parts.

Specifically, instead of paying the milling company to mill the wheels into the model, or even paying another supplier to have the wheels made with a stereolithography (SLA) machine, we are putting our investment to work for us and printing our own wheels and tires.

The tire is modeled after the wheel we currently have in our shop and it's what will be used on the first actual prototype, so it made sense to use it for the model as we make the necessary changes to the body for packaging all the necessary components and to get the best possible look at how the tires will affect the styling of the vehicle. Since we don't have a wheel selected (or designed for that matter in the event we decide to tool up and make a wheel specific to the Rally Fighter) for the prototype, I used another readily available resource - 3D Content Central - to pluck a wheel of the correct size that had already been modeled in SolidWorks, saving a significant amount of time. This could not only significantly derail both our engineering and design team from our critical path, but do so on an item that wouldn't be for production and would require several hours of design time since the wheels would have to match the overall feeling and function of the vehicle - a pretty difficult and daunting task, especially when the styling is still in flux.

Stay tuned for some images of how the RP wheels turned out!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Latest Scan Data - Prototype Engine

Here's a glimpse into one of the things we've been working on for the Rally Fighter:

In a few short hours using the Z800 scanner from ZCorp, we had the entire engine along with the exhaust manifolds, air boxes, turbo, intercooler and radiator hoses, and engine covers scanned into the computer. In order to make the scanning process move along faster, and still have the critical data (the extents of the engine, engine mounts, flywheel, and mating flange for the transmission) necessary to mate other components to the engine and package the suspension, chassis etc. around the engine, we masked off the inner portions of the engine. Normally, to reach these inner areas of the engine, some of the components would have to be removed from the engine to expose the area to the scanner, then you'd have to either scan the parts separately and mate them to the main engine scan in the computer, or put them back on the engine and continue scanning. Since we are not concerned with most of this geometry, it was faster to mask them off, while still maintaining the critical data for our needs.

We can now mate the transmission to the engine and insert them into the forthcoming chassis, and package the rest of the components around them. Having the components that the geometry of which cannot change allows us to mate those parts that have negotiable geometry around them for the most rigid, safe, and easy to produce components packaged in the most space efficient manner.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Q and A with One of the Best

After some time of remaining idle, Gordon Murray - engineer responsible for one of modern day's best supercars, the McLaren F1 - answered questions posted by users of the NY Times' Auto section. Some of these questions range from how he'd improve the McLaren F1 to compete with more modern supercars of today to use of turbine engines as power plants in the next generation of auto manufacturing.

However, one question (and more importantly, the answer) is very encouraging to hear from one of the world's greatest engineers/designers of cars that have been highly exotic, sparing no expense to achieve one single goal: performance. Here it is:

Q. How do you deal with the extraordinary differences across American cities? Take our two most famous: New York and Los Angeles, one a subway city and one a car city, have very different needs from personal cars. Can the same car work for these two cities and all the variations in between? Why?
— Posted by Lauren

A. I believe, as you do, that different cultures and city requirements will need different versions of a generic city car design. Our manufacturing technology is totally flexible in order to satisfy this requirement.

This reaffirms the tone Gordon took in an interview I was privileged enough to listen in to while I was at Art Center this past winter, in which time I was also very surprised to hear that someone whom you'd think was only concerned with high performance at any cost due to his background, and would assume he'd have the ego to boot, was actually very humble and embarking on his own project of a car that's much more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

His answer to this question above was also something he talked about in that interview and I think that the key word is "flexible". Rather than making new parts or using new technology for one specific part or one specific build as in the supercar world is going to make all the difference for ventures like Gordon Murray's and Local Motors' and their impact on how we manufacture automobiles and what we drive in general.

Again, when someone of this background recognizes that there has to be another way and puts forth his own efforts to do something about it, it's time for everyone to listen. Glad to see that even the elite of our business see eye to eye with our philosophy.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Finding the Good

There's a lot of cars that I'm not a fan of, but I'd never go to the length some vandals did in the suburbs of San Francisco, going as far as throwing rocks, and even setting fire to several Toyota Prius'.

Courtesy: www.edmunds.com

However, the good in this situation, for Toyota at least (not so much for the Prius owners) is that they're doing something right. Usually if there is this much hate for something, there's someone out there that has an equal amount of love for the certain product.

If I read a story in the near future of a Rally Fighter being set ablaze, I will of course feel for the owner, but still be able to find the good in the situation as we are targeting specific niche markets. This is, in a sense the definition of a niche market - you love it or you hate it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Yet Another Engine Alternative - EcoMotor

I did some reading today on yet another new engine alternative on the rise. The engine is from a company name EcoMotors. This engine could quite possibly be a great fit for the LM business model since it is configurable according to an article on cleantech.com,

"According to EcoMotors, it can be adapted to use any combustion system, including compression ignition and spark ignition, and can be operated on a wide variety of fuels."

and it offers superior efficiency at over 130 hp/liter.

The engine is also reported to be easily configured into multiple sizes by assembling them like LEGO's, a report from Business Week says, using the base two cylinder configuration to creat 4, 6 and 8 cylinder engines. This is where the benefit to LM could be realized. We could use the 6 or 8 cylinder engine for a vehicle like our Rally Fighter - a larger, high performance vehicle, or use the 4 cylinder engine for a smaller, economy car. For this reason, the engineering team will keep a close eye on this power plant as a solid option in the event we decide to change the current system, and/or for future vehicles.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Part Selection

The engine arrived some time ago, and over the last couple of days, we've been making preparations to have the engine scanned and ready for insertion to the updated model in SolidWorks (as seen in Vehicle Build Process). This involved installing some of the parts we had to order separately from the engine, and also removing some from the complete vehicle we already have in the shop for benchmarking in addition to updating the scanner software, installing the IR targets for the scanner etc.

Having a complete vehicle has (and will continue to have) a profound affect on our ability to assess which parts come with certain assemblies, and those that have to be purchased on their own. Therefore, as I said, some of the parts we need to get the engine to a running state did not come with it from the factory, so we are making careful notes on such parts and ordering accordingly. Despite the fact that production is quite some time away, we can place orders for parts accurately and quickly when the time comes if we are diligent now.

Conversely, some parts we purchase may not be used in the prototype, or may come with other assemblies, so we will keep track of these parts as well. In the case of such parts, not using them is often a decision that must be made after purchasing the part, installing it and finding that it simply won't work for any of a number of reasons - too heavy, too expensive, interferes with another part etc. However, all is not lost on such parts since it is often a means to an end, and it provides a great deal of learning. Sometimes learning what doesn't work is how you determine what does work.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bad Company

Recently a British newspaper, The Telegraph released it's "100 Ugliest Cars" list. Obviously, this is a list any automaker would want to stay as far away from as possible.

What I can't understand is the ranking of some of these vehicles. For example, how does the Subaru B9 Tribeca (#99)

or the Aston Martin Bulldog (#88)

just to name a few (the list is ridden of eyesores such as these) score higher - much higher - than the likes of the Rolls Royce Phantom (#28)

or the latest rendition of the Range Rover (#20)

or, and this one blows my mind, the Porsche Cayenne (#5)!!

I could have easily selected 10 other cars that don't belong on this list. Instead, I urge you to take a look at the list as I'm sure you will have to laugh at some of the rankings certain vehicles garnered in relation to others.

When I first saw that the Pontiac Aztek took the top spot, I just had to check out this list to see what came behind it, agreeing that the Aztek is up there in the ugliest cars ever, but I knew there were some others that should be on the list. However, I certainly didn't expect the rankings that followed, certainly not the Cayenne at #5, or the placement of the cars above, or the various BMW's sprinkled throughout the list.

Even though you always have to take things like this with a grain of salt, it drives me to make sure that there is no possible way that the LM vehicles could be in the company of the vehicles on an "ugliest cars" list as we enter the early stages of milling models and finalizing the exterior design of this first prototype.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


A few quotes from Jim Vondale, Director of Ford's Safety Office, plucked from an article on MSNBC.com:

"...the short-term cost of redesigning vehicles for the global market would be more than made up by the long-term savings of harmonization.

"We think it's very important to have a single set of requirements that can be enacted globally," he said.


It's no secret that one of the major problems of current auto production is complexity. Much of this complexity is driven by having to pass multiple standards from separate governmental institutions, and from different governments all together (ie: the United States vs. Europe). When an auto maker develops a new platform, some of the existing parts they have in their inventory may not work in the new model (as far as crash testing, EPA standards etc. are concerned), and furthermore, a platform developed for the United States for example may not pass the necessary regulations in European nations.

This lack of global standards also leads to a lack of sustainability. Although large auto manufacturers can retrofit their platforms to pass standards, this leads to a huge increase in expenditures of time, energy and money to develop new systems.

According to the article, Vondale says that 40 countries have signed on to a program 10 years in the making to standardize regulations. No word on if or when it will go into effect, but if it does, when you pair that with LM's mission to address both these issues of complexity and sustainability with the current paradigm, we will be in an already great position, if not a leading position to prosper globally, not just in the United States.

Friday, August 29, 2008

If You Build It, They Will Follow

As Chrysler prepares to sell the Viper brand, it seems that Viper enthusiasts are sticking with their beloved snake in hopes that its pedigree remains untainted due to a sale. This is the type of following we can only hope to have at LM for all of our models.

I've read the article and perused some of the forums and the enthusiasm is very encouraging, so I thought I'd share it with those that may already be die hard LM fans, and for those that soon may become devout followers of our brand.

Courtesy: http://xth2686.k12.sd.us/dodge_viper_gtsr_concept_.jpg

I don't think people would be too up in arms to see a mini van model or most sedans vanish from production lines, but with cars that are inspired and offer the customer something that they can't get anywhere else, they will stop at nothing to protect the designs they love so much.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tailor Made Utility

In working with the data obtained from scanning the transmission, we have discovered several ways to tailor the output from the ZCorp Scanner and the RapidForm XOR software to suit our needs in building our prototype. One of them is shown below.

The scanner did an excellent job picking up the detail of the transmission, which in a perfect world, we'd like to retain. The software is very capable of doing this. However, based on our time line, and what we need to do with the scanned data (represent the spatial constraints of the OEM parts and mating them to the chassis/other components) it isn't necessary to use every detail of the scanned data in the transfer to a SolidWorks model. What I discovered we can do to represent the scanned data in a usable format and still represent the model as a solid recognizable by SolidWorks and able to be mated to other components is to capture the main features we need as a parametric solid with data that can be referenced and further edited (if necessary), and also represent the geometry as a surface all in one part.

What this means is that we can turn the surface data and solid data on and off as needed without having to load two separate models into SolidWorks and toggle between the two of them and then have to figure out where the differences lie. This will be especially useful in areas where parts may have limited space between them and although the solid we create based on the scan may not capture all of the detail, we can turn the surface data - which is a direct representation of what the scanner picked up - on and off to check clearance. Using this method, we can create the bare minimum amount of data we need to load the part in SolidWorks and mate it to other parts, and represent the rest with a feature in RapidForm called "Auto Surface," which quickly models the regions as a surface model. Although it isn't always a clean surface (this depends on how much time you spend cleaning holes and imperfections in the scanned data), it usually does a good enough job to represent the outer extents of the parts, which is the main thing we need to have.

As we use the software more and more we will continue to find these types of attributes and how to tailor them to our needs to quickly and effectively develop prototypes.

Here is the transmission in RapidForm. The colored areas are the regions of the scanned data, and the gray, smooth area in the main body of the case is a solid made from a cross section of the case as per the scanned data.

Here it is in SolidWorks with the solid and the surface data shown at the same time. As you can see, the solid data provides a quick way to represent the general shape of the transmission and allows you to mate it to the engine, drive shaft etc. while the surface data can be used as a check to make sure the finer details of the transmission (which would take a fair amount of time to create) do not conflict with any parts that may be located near the transmission.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

News from the Vegas to Reno Race

Here's an article about the Rod Hall Team HUMMER, and their sweep of the production class in the Vegas to Reno "Best in the Desert" race we attended late last week.

As the article states, the race can be an arduous task, especially when one of your wheels gets ripped clean off, never mind when things go "smoothly" (the track is nothing but!). This explains why on every truck we saw, teams go as far as carrying not only two spare wheels/tires, but also spare suspension parts like control arms - the terrain can be that rough. You'd think that if you had to go that far to make a repair, that you'd be out of the race and have to pack it in...not so, as Team HUMMER demonstrated in their run for the sweep of the production class.

Courtesy: www.motorcities.com

This is a class that we looked at very closely, not just the all out Trophy Truck class. Analyzing the trucks in each class gave us an idea of the most extreme build and one of the "simpler" builds, which required stock suspension. The production class is one that we could possibly compete in, so it's good to see that stock parts can handle this terrain, since some of the parts we will use as "stock" could very well be improvements over what your typical stock suspension would be comprised of.

Monday, August 25, 2008

It's No Mistake Why They're "The Best in the Desert"

As Jay has already mentioned in his blog, the vehicles that enter this race from the dirt bikes, to the quads, to the Pre-runners, all the way up to the Trophy Trucks are the real deal. Especially in the case of the Trophy Trucks, these vehicles are as purpose-built as they come. Although we will not be trying to directly mimic the construction and as a result, the performance of the Trophy Trucks in our first vehicle, it was great to see what the top notch, function over form, best in the game trucks incorporate for drivetrain, suspension, interior, chassis etc.

Despite this fact, the mission of our trip was accomplished since now that we've seen how these trucks are made first hand and spoke to the guys that design, build and race them. What I mean by this is that although our vehicle will have to take a different route in terms of construction due to other parameters we need to meet that the Trophy Trucks do not (FMVSS standards, mass production - think thousands, not millions, but not only one either, visibility, comfort, etc.), we can still use some of the properties incorporated into the construction of the trucks to manufacture a vehicle like no other on the market, and one that may not be able to demolish one of these trucks out in the desert, but run with the pack. And from what we saw this weekend, just running with the pack and being able to finish says a lot.

One excellent example of a feature that proves these vehicles leave nothing behind when it comes to being built for performance is a certain element of the chassis that is a minor detail, but one that allows big performance gains. It's also something that we could incorporate into our chassis for better performance, without limiting our goals of efficient production (both in cost and time). It's something I hadn't noticed in the pictures I had seen on the internet, but found it to be common on just about every truck that I saw on the tech inspection day.

You will notice in the photos below that around each bolt is a piece of round tube used as a gusset (center of the photo as pointed out by the arrow). In the case of the rod end mount, there is a tube welded to the gusset and then to the spindle for added bracing to handle the intense loads the suspension will see as the truck flies across the desert at an average of 70 mph (sometimes reaching over 120 mph) traversing some of the toughest terrain you can think of.

As for the control arm bolt in the second picture, the bracket that welds to the main portion of the chassis that the bolt goes through could be braced by a single piece of steel at the top or the bottom, but you can see that instead, a round piece is welded to the bracket, around the hole for the bolt, then it is gusseted by sheet steel (Lower end of photo, near center as pointed out by the arrow). This allows for an incredibly strong mount, and because the stock is a round piece, you can still get a socket onto the nut/bolt.

Again, in the critical areas, this is a subtle detail found on the best performing trucks in the world that could easily transfer to the LM vehicle to adapt as much of the performance of a Trophy Truck into the vehicle as possible, without hindering our other manufacturing goals to a fault.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Car Guy's Christmas

Big Day today in the LM Engineering world...

Our engine for the prototype arrived!!

This is like Christmas for car guys all across the globe. We've been receiving parts for some time now, but this was like that one big present in the corner staring you down on Christmas that you know you want to open first, but your parents make you save it for last!

No pesky parents around today to stop us! We barely had it in the door when we took the wraps off to take a closer look. You'll be seeing many more pictures of this beauty as we traverse the development process, so stay tuned. Take a look at the fixture they ship it in by the way - not your standard cheap wooden crate. A sign of quality for sure.

Segway Testing

As I mentioned in my post the other day, integrating a Segway into our model could be one way to address the "last mile" or allow customers to achieve the elusive 100 mpg lifestyle many people are after in today's world of high fuel costs.

Therefore, through an agreement with the people at Segway, we have an X2 on loan, so of course, as soon as it arrived we put it together, made sure it had a charge and hit the streets (and did some off-roading too). Unfortunately, the whole team wasn't here to take advantage of the initial test drive, but there will be plenty of other opportunities!

Dave tries his hand at putting the X2's off-road capabilities to the test.

Michael negotiates the elevation changes (and some bumps) in the parking lot.

Priyanka buzzes by the building, smiling ear to ear the whole time.

After letting Michael and Priyanka try their hand at operating the X2 for the first time, I also decided to go off road.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Disappointment Continues...

It seems that yet another great concept (at least some of the great aspects of it) from one of the major auto manufacturers is going to be left behind in the transition from concept to reality.

Disappointed, but not surprised.

Car and Driver reported today on their site that many of the features of the Chevy Volt that made the concept both fresh and exciting will not transfer into production. From the sneak peeks, it looks like the Volt is taking a Lumina, Impala, Malibu etc. turn and becoming comfortably numb. This is particularly evident in the grill opening which had quite an aggressive look, now it's just "ehh". This happens all too often.

Courtesy: www.caranddriver.com

If Local Motors is ever guilty of going from aggressive to "ehh" in the concept to production it will because the blood running through our veins has run completely cold. Enter the flying pigs. Sure some things will change as we progress into production, but as I've mentioned before, the agendas of the larger auto makers often force the type of change in the Volt that we simply do not and will not (ever) have.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Last Mile

As I've discussed previously, the "last mile" issue in transportation has become more and more of an issue with the rise of gas prices, and population of urban areas. Therefore, several devices have surfaced. Few have the market presence of the Segway, despite its lingering image of being less than cool let's say, as depicted in an article Ari forwarded to me today from Popular Mechanics. To name just one of the others, the Toyota "Winglet" has also garnered some serious attention in the press/on the internet in its own right, and does offer a viable solution to the "last mile" issue, but I think being hands free will be even more of a barrier than cool looks, which I think it has over the Segway in some aspects.

Having said that, as both of these machines become more visible (more people purchase them in an effort to adapt to the issues we now face and will continue to face for the foreseeable future) I think these initial perceptions will die off. Also, having used the Segway myself on a recent visit to their headquarters, and as the article points out, it is a ton of fun to ride. It's REALLY fast and very intuitive to use too. I especially like the off road version, particularly for those future customers of ours that may be taking the Rally Fighter off road and may want to conduct some further off road exploration into places that the Rally Fighter won't fit. Or, for those that use it in everyday use, when they park the Rally Fighter, they'd like to get from the parking lot to their destination quickly! Therefore, thoughts of integrating one into the vehicle as I mentioned in a previous post have re-entered my mind so I pose the question, how much would having an integrated X2 Segway in the Rally Fighter influence your purchase decision?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Good News, Bad News

Although we did receive more parts today, and some pretty significant ones like fuel tank and transmission, I was not able to scan them in.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that the reason why I didn't have time to scan them was that we were very busy today making some critical decisions on how to proceed with the design process, specifically the milling of models and with whom that work would be done. Pairing the guidance of potential suppliers, advisers and our industry connections with our instincts on the best methods for our business model (meeting time, budget, scope and what we can learn from doing things a certain way) we were able to formulate a plan. We feel this plan is an effective combination of industry standard and methodology that will again, allow us to meet our goals and do so in a way unique to LM and one that will allow us to continually develop new designs like no other auto manufacturer, whether work be outsourced as in this primordial development process, or brought in house for future builds.

CAD Update

Over the last few days, drive line components have begun to arrive, and we have started the cataloging process by scanning them, then using RapidForm to transfer them into parts that can be recognized in SolidWorks. The first of these parts was the engine mount as seen below.

What we've found from the training sessions and from practicing on other components is that the best method is to disassemble parts to the lowest level and scan each part individually, then put the models back together in the SolidWorks environment as an assembly of multiple components just as they are in physical form. In the case of the engine mount this is pretty easy since there are two parts to it: the mount and the heat shield.

Because the mount has some complex geometry, I scanned that in to be sure that I captured the detail, but since the heat shield is a simple part that's easily modeled by extruding circles and apply some radii to the edges, I reverse engineered that right in SolidWorks. This hybrid approach is a method that will be commonly employed during the development process. As we continue to model parts I will be sure to post the results, especially for some of the more interesting and complex components.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Shakespearian Design

Perhaps if Shakespeare were a designer or an engineer, the famous words wouldn't have been "To be or not to be" but "To scale or not to scale". I ask this because when it comes to automotive prototype development, it seems that the common method of milling a design for the first verification run is to mill full scale foam or clay with the the secondary method (often when time and cost are a factor) involving milling a scale model, usually 1/4 scale.

Courtesy: patf.net

Since we are in the phase of developing not only our first prototype, but devising an innovative method of developing such prototypes, we had a lengthy discussion today on following the first inclination of milling at full scale, the secondary method of 1/4 scale, a combination of both, and even milling to a different scale before milling our final full scale model, from which the first tool will be made.

As Jay stated near the end of this conversation, it would be great to have a Wikipedia entry on the matter that we could simply look up and base a decision on, but the fact of the matter is that it doesn't exist, so we can either follow the current industry standard to the letter, make a total departure from it, or develop a hybrid method. Once again, these are the types of discussions we have daily here at LM, which I don't think current manufacturers have anymore and although it can be very difficult to come to a common and correct conclusion at times, the discussions are both necessary and invigorating. Maybe the path we blaze will have some wrong turns in it, but as long as we learn from such wrong turns for our next vehicle, our success won't falter, but we'll be in a better position for future builds having the best route mapped out.

This reminds me of another famous line: "You have to lose to know how to win." In other words, in terms of our process, we may do more work or go to an expense more than is necessary, but as long as we recognize this early, and we are willing to experiment and stay flexible we can make the necessary adjustments to our process to become more time and capital efficient the next time we begin development.

Once we combine our learnings from doing things the way that work best and the ways that don't work so well we'll have to write our own Wikipedia entry on the matter.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The New Porsche?

Today I read an article about Porsche #1 making its way to the famed Concours d'Elegance at Pebble Beach. I didn't find the fact that the car is being shown as a celebration of Porsche's 60th birthday nearly as interesting as the details that followed this announcement regarding the history of the car and being car #1, the history of Porsche's early development.

The Porsche story is actually very similar to that of Local Motors.

Dr. Ferdinand 'Ferry' Porsche developed the first car after an unsuccessful search to find the car of his dreams. We are working under the same premise and will be producing cars like none other available on the market. Also, like our first prototype the first car utilized running gear from an already existing platform (the VW). It also used the suspension, headlights, clutch, gearbox, cable-operated brakes, and steering from the VW in addition to the engine and transmission. Using these parts allowed Porsche and his team to focus on things like tuning the engine for more power, but the thing more in line with the LM model, creating a new body design.

"Erwin Komenda, who along with Ferry Porsche and Karl Rabe formed the foundation of the fledgling car company, penned an aerodynamic and easy-to-build open roadster design. Friedrich Weber from Gmünd, one of just three of the company's body artisans, formed each of the car's aluminum body panels by hand, beating the then rare sheet metal and massaging it into shape over the wooden body buck Komenda had designed. The result was as shapely and beautiful as it was functional, with minimal protrusions to upset the aerodynamics or its visually graceful lines."

Courtesy: www.motorcities.com (Note the VW Beetle in the background)

Another parallel to the first Porsche is that he kept the car simple and still achieved a high level of performance wrapped in a beautiful, timeless design. The car had only what it needed - a result of function driving form as is still the case with modern Porsches.

I always find it interesting how humble the beginnings of most of the major players in the automotive world are, this being no exception. I think it just provides proof that even in today's age of car building, when you're driven by design (or lack thereof in cases like Dr. Porsche and LM), and you carry that tradition in every model you produce, the results can totally change the game.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Out of the Dark

So the announcement has been made...the Rally Fighter it is!

Now that we have determined which vehicle we will proceed with, one of the first things we have to concern ourselves with is the occupant packaging. This will drive not only the interior design (the details of which will come much later), but the roof line, the location of the chassis components, drive line, ingress/egress etc. all of which have an immense impact on the vehicle design. One way to ensure that we leave enough room for the passenger, chassis, drive line etc. is to create an orthographic drawing - which I've mentioned in a previous post - and include in that drawing a model of a human, usually a male that fits the 95th percentile of most males to ensure that we will be able to package the vast majority (95% as the term suggests) of our target audience.

Designing anything to meet 100% of all possible scenarios is not only very time consuming and very costly, but referred to by the term "over-engineering". This is something that all engineers and designers consider no matter what it is they are designing. Just about any product you can think of is designed with this principle in mind. Now, of course if someone outside of the range can still use your product despite not being able to do so quite as well as someone in the 95% range, that is obviously an added bonus. This is always tough with automobiles compared to say tooth brushes or razors, particularly in the area of occupant leg room and head room.

We'll be aiming to meet this 95th percentile mark, and do so allowing the passenger the most comfort possible, although if we can't fit someone like Shaq in the car it would be a shame, as you can see below.

How do you feel about a Rally Fighter with a sunroof? Hmmm....

Monday, August 4, 2008

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Which vehicle have we chosen as the first LM prototype you may be asking.

Is it Filski's Panterra?

Deuxfov's Miami Roadster perhaps?

Dooj's LAF Concept?

Or one of the great designs in a community member's profile?

Well, work has begun on the prototype, but I can't say exactly what it is just yet, so you'll have to remain in the dark, just like Dave and Dan working on the prototype in the image below.

However, the wait is over tomorrow August 5th!! See our website for the exciting announcement, and stay tuned to the Vehicle Engineering Blog for more photos and information on the days leading up to this historic day in automotive design and engineering.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Over the last few days we have had many in depth discussions on our first design. These discussions have included the body design, chassis engineering, occupant packaging and several other topics. After working well into the night (the morning actually) the other night with Jay and Dave a thought occurred to me as I was driving home.

No matter how much we're discussing the physical deliverable of this prototyping phase, the conversation always has an underlying common aspect. That is of course that the physical product we will develop isn't the only deliverable from this process. We must also develop a new way of manufacturing that product that differentiates us from all other auto manufacturers.

The thought I had wasn't just this, but that I wonder if these discussions - debates if you will at times - will continue with every new product we develop. The process may be the same (or near the same) vehicle to vehicle, but I hope that the discussions continue to carry the same weight as they do now and everyone puts in their thoughts and efforts like there is no chance for failure and everything is riding on that one design.

I think this is something that USED to happen with the existing auto manufacturers, but they lost it somewhere along the way.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Doc Brown was way ahead of his time...

In an article that Ari sent me, it seems that the days of committing one of the worst party fouls ever may be coming to an end. I'm speaking of course about "wounded soldiers", aka "leaving a man behind". More specifically, not finishing a perfectly good beer, leaving it to be poured out, blatantly wasted.

The article details the use of beer that didn't pass the quality test at the Coors Brewing facility in Golden, Colorado to be used as ethanol to power fleet vehicles used during the Democratic National Convention this summer in Denver, Colorado. Coors says they are the first major American brewery to make waste beer available for use as ethanol as they started this practice in 1996.

Sound familiar? See the clip below of the famed Flux Capacitor from Back to the Future (please excuse the poor image quality). When I first saw this part of the movie way back when (I was probably 7 or 8) I remember thinking that using waste as fuel would be cool and pretty resourceful, but was probably in the distant future IF it ever happened. It's happening much sooner than I thought, thankfully! Then again, when you're that age, trying to think of when you'll be nearing 30 seems like an eternity away I suppose.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

RapidForm Training - Day Two

Once again, we had Jim from JMR Systems at the LM facility for RapidForm training. This was our second full day of training as per the training schedule set forth by RapidForm and JMR Systems. As we get more and more exposure to the software, its value becomes more apparent. Today we were able to build upon our first day of training and also try different techniques to achieve similar results. You might think this is a waste of time, but in the world of solid modeling, every part is different, and what you need to do with that part has a profound effect on how you model the part. Furthermore, the geometry of a part can affect the way in which you model the part whether it's due to speed, secondary processing etc., not just what the part is going to be used for. At times, a hybrid method is needed to model parts, which is something we also covered today.

One of the main things we covered was using a surface modeling approach in comparison to modeling parts as solids as in the first day of training. It was pretty fitting that this was happening today since we were heavily involved in preparing for the surfacing of our first prototype. Having a better knowledge of how the surfaces are created, how the blend and how the reflections on these surfaces play a role in the vehicle design is yet another tool to help us bridge the gap between design and engineering.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Systemic Approach

Audi AG announced a forward thinking change in traffic infrastructure today, representative of the systemic approach to changing the problems we currently have with the way we get around. This type of change is the core of sustainability of transportation within urban areas and is already in place in several European cities in several different forms. It deals with the system as the focus, not the products we use to get around.

The way in which Audi's "Travolution Team" has made such a systemic change is to develop a system that informs drivers through the infotainment system what speed they should travel to drive through intersections without having to stop. To accomplish this, the vehicle is tied into a network of traffic lights with communication modules.

Courtesy: www.treehugger.com

If this were the medical field this would be akin to the holistic practice of health care versus more traditional, commonplace methods where the focus is on both prevention and wellness (body, mind, and spirit) through correcting core imbalances by treating with the contributing factors in mind. There is no "quick fix" in this method. The core imbalance in transportation lies within the traffic infrastructure, while the make-up of the automobile is one of the contributing factors.

We at LM are not out to change the traffic infrastructure as Audi has, but our angle of approach to making a systemic change is the way in which one of the contributing factors to our woes - the automobile itself - is produced. We are examining the vehicle as an entity with many factors that contribute to its overall "wellness". While other manufacturers are looking at just the power plant (these would be the are of medicine that treats a problem with the "quick fix" and not looking into what contributed the ailment) as the smoking gun, we're taking the holistic approach and looking at the equivalent features to a humans body, mind, and emotions - the body (mainly its shape), the power plant, and the materials/processes which make up the core of the vehicle.

Look for more of these systemic, holistic solutions as the need to revamp the way we travel continues to becomes more dire in the very near future.

Engineering Essentials - Segment Four (Orthographic Drawings)

In discussing the orthographic drawing for vehicle prototypes, I noticed that the original sketches of the side of some vehicles don't seem to match the proportions of the orthographic tape drawing. When I raised the question as to why there was a difference, Ben explained that often times when a designer sketches the side of the vehicle it isn't necessarily from a straight on perspective, but may be either from the perspective of viewing the vehicle from a slightly upward or downward angle, depending on the vehicle. For example, for a larger vehicle like a truck or SUV, you don't see over the roof line so it would be sketched from the perspective of looking up at it. On the other hand, for a lower vehicle like a 2 door coupe, in the designer's original sketches, you may see more of the roof line so the sketch would be from looking down at the car. As the perspectives change, the reflections off the body panels also change. Shading and reflections give a 2D sketch the depth to represent what the car would look like in 3D.



The difference in going from a sketch to the orthographic tape drawing is that you aren't using perspective to show a "round" vehicle, or colors or value to represent the reflections and surfaces. To represent the complex curvature in 2D on the tape drawing, essentially what you're doing is taking the centerline features and bringing them to the front of the drawing to represent a straight on view, from every point, of what the vehicle's curves look like. This is where the difference in the profile between the initial sketch and the orthographic come from. This seemed counter intuitive to me at first, but after having it explained, it makes sense that although often times you may think you're looking at a vehicle from straight on, your eye doesn't necessarily perceive the vehicle as such, due to the perspective of seeing an object from a single vantage point.

Therefore, the tape drawing is used in conjunction with the original sketches as a tool to grab data to model the vehicle's curvature in 3D. If you were to skip the orthographic tape drawing step in the design process and model in 3D CAD using only a designer's hand sketch, the vehicle may come out looking somewhat flat due to the notion I mentioned of sketching from what I'll call from a perspective view. The orthographic tape drawing is a data point to represent the exact curvature of the body in four views (front, back, side, top) critical in avoiding a flat design since it represents these views with all of the packaging constraints in addition to the curvature at the center of the body.

Not being an artist, and not having formal transportation design training, this was very interesting to learn and I hope to continue to further my knowledge of "the other side". Although I may never be the one to create the sketches or tape drawings AND engineer the vehicle (although the thought does interest me), having an understanding of this process is critical in our ability to destroy the convention of design and engineering collaboration (or lack thereof), and as a result our ability to deliver a differentiated overall customer experience, not just a differentiated product.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Carbon Composites Update

In my continuing research of composite materials and how they are useful to the LM manufacturing model, I read an article in Automotive Engineering International today that discussed Caparo's (the company that developed the T1, a super light weight F1 inspired road car) development program of carbon composites.

The Engineering Director of Vehicle Products at Caparo is Ben Scott-Geddes, McLaren's former Head of Composites and Body Structures and most recently Head of Advanced Concepts. The article is the summary of an interview conducted with him regarding Caparo's recent movement to take the knowledge of carbon composites and adapt it to manufacturing at "prices appropriate to volume vehicles."

Scott-Geddes makes an excellent point when he states that a lot of the cost of carbon composites is due to the fact that the manufacturing methods currently in use are not well suited for volume production since they were originally developed in the aerospace industry for low volume applications. He and his team have set out on this path of innovation by analyzing the areas of automotive manufacturing to determine the areas where carbon composites can be most useful and developed new compositions and production techniques more applicable to vehicles produced at volume. They are also developing a "variable matrix" composite, blending several materials in a single part based on what will yield the strongest, lightest part fit for the application.

This is great news for a company like ours as it gives us yet another data point to examine in our development of a new way to produce vehicles in addition to those we have already researched, namely FiberForge. It's these types of alternative materials and forming techniques that will allow us to offer a differentiated product, so we will continue to research them even well into production as the technology evolves.