Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What Came First...Part II

Today we had affirmation of my previous statements regarding which comes first - the chassis or the body - when in a project management meeting involving design of the vehicle we will deliver, the Local Motors website design, and structure of the Design Competition.

We concluded that since our goal is performance and function based, the pivotal characteristics in achieving our main design/performance goals are the aspects that make up the core of the drive-line, the suspension, and the rigidity of the chassis, which means the design begins with the chassis, not the body.

The secondary (although still influential in the performance of the vehicle) element of the vehicle is the shape of the body. Design of the body can begin once you have determined things like wheelbase, suspension travel, engine location, track width, and approach angles. The development of the chassis in regards to the above elements can occur while the body is also in development. Once the body shape is determined, you can design the rest of the chassis around it.

Our discussion also gravitated around the idea that the alternate approach of starting with a design first makes development of the vehicle much more complex, time consuming, and expensive as a result, not to mention compromised.

This is the paradigm of current transportation manufacturing and explains the difficulty resulting from designers "throwing a design over the wall" to the engineers to work with what they've been given. It also explains why a car can look completely different (usually less impressive) from when you first see the concept and when the car reaches production - compromises had to be made to fit critical components in the envelope provided, allow the car to meet regulatory standards, and perform to specifications.

For these reasons, we feel it necessary to start with the critical areas of the chassis and design the body concurrently if we are to create a shift in the paradigm that is the current unsustainable, inefficient, and uninspiring method of transportation design.

1 comment:

Benjamin said...

Well said, Mike. The greatest achievements in car design, or any design for that matter, come when designers' work develops from a thorough understanding of critical functional objectives. Any gorgeous Italian beauty (no offense to your preference for Brazilians) like a Ferrari attains its beauty from the designers' ability to truly understand and even EMPHASIZE the function of the vehicle through the shape of the body.

A community of designers will naturally want to see who can tease the hottest look, that most represents her inner character, out of the car's basic engineering requirements.... Italian, Brazilian, or Californian! The fun is in truly knowing the functional aspects of the vehicle, then illuminating them through the body shape...

Looks and brains can coexist!