Ref. NDM 778/04.
Southampton, UK. September, 2004.
SOFTWARE USER STORY
Ford of Europe trims new vehicle design development costs and improves
design work-flow with ICEM Surf.
The use of ICEM Surf surface modelling, analysis and visualisation software in
the design development of the all-new Ford Focus C-MAX helped Ford of
Europe improve the design work-flow and cut the number of physical models
Nowadays, all of the major automotive OEMs offer a multi-purpose vehicle (MPV)
or a sport utility vehicle (SUV) as a standard part of their range of cars. And Ford
of Europe is no different in this respect. Until recently it offered customers who
want the adaptability and flexibility that this type of vehicle can provide a choice
between the Fusion 5-seat urban MPV range and the Galaxy 7-seat MPV range.
Now, however, Ford customers in Europe have even more choice. In the autumn
of 2003 the Ford Focus C-MAX range of mini-MPVs was introduced. From the
entry-level Studio to the top-of-the-range Ultima, the all-new Ford Focus C-MAX
is designed to provide the flexibility of an MPV demanded by many family car
buyers today but at the price-level of a medium-size family car.
Each of the models in the five-door Focus C-MAX range of vehicles will carry up
to five adults in comfort and style, yet with their 40/20/40 split-fold seats, which
can be tipped, tumbled or removed, they can also act as flexible and surprisingly
capacious load-carriers for those week-end away breaks or trips to the local
As with other vehicles in the Ford range, the body and interior of the Ford Focus
C-MAX owe a great deal to the extensive use during their design development of
the ICEM Surf surface modelling, analysis and visualisation software suite.
Ford of Europe introduced ICEM Surf into its vehicle design development
process some seven or eight years ago. Today the software plays a crucial role
in the company’s moves towards a near-totally digital design development and
ICEM Surf provides the designers and engineers at Ford Werke AG in Germany
with a set of software tools that enables them to create complex, free-form
surface digital models and to dynamically modify, analyse and refine them in
order to arrive at the optimum surface shape, while maintaining the design intent.
It also provides sophisticated real-time rendering and visualisation tools for use in
the design review process, as well as a range of dynamic surface model analysis
tools, such as curvature, gap, levelling, flatness, continuity and highlights
analysis, among others, to enable the development of the final Class A surface
data required for the vehicle body and interior manufacturing processes.
For the design development of the body of the Focus C-MAX, Ford’s surfacing
engineers in Cologne began with the point cloud scan data generated from a 3D
scan of the full-scale clay model of the vehicle, together with the designers’ 2D
sketches. The scan data and the sketches were imported into the ICEM Surf
environment where they were used as the basis for creating the initial digital
Volker Renn, supervisor of surface development, Corporate Design at Ford
Werke, explains, “The important thing about the use of ICEM Surf in the early
stages of the design development process for the body of the Focus C-MAX was
that it enabled us to develop the digital model in parallel with the clay model. It
also enabled us to develop the surface model taking into account all of the ‘hard
points’ defined by the engineering CAD model in our I-DEAS Master Series CAD/
“Any changes to the ICEM Surf digital model, to take account of engineering or
manufacturing concerns for example, were replicated in the clay for styling
verification, while changes to the clay were scanned and imported back into
ICEM Surf for the digital model to be updated. So”, he points out, “the digital and
clay models alternated at being in the lead.”
The advantages of this ‘closed loop’ process over earlier vehicle development
programmes were that, without adding to the time required, more design
iterations to ensure feasibility could be undertaken, with small design changes, to
take account both of engineering concerns and of the stylists’ wishes, being able
to be made and verified much faster than was previously possible.
Further, it also ensured that everybody - designers, surfacing engineers, detail
design engineers and manufacturing engineers – always had the most up-to-date
design information with which to work.
With the Focus C-MAX being an entirely new vehicle, built on a new Ford
platform that will also form the basis of the new Focus due for launch later in
2004, the Class A surface models for all of the vehicle’s body panels were
developed in ICEM Surf from completely new designs.
Being an entirely new vehicle, the interior of the Focus C-MAX was also a new
design, again with ICEM Surf being used as a fundamental part of the design
development process. However, here the process differed slightly from that for
the vehicle’s exterior.
For the major interior components, such as the instrument panel and centre
console, the surfacing engineers were provided with digital design data from
Ford’s styling studio. This design data had been created from the initial clay
model, using another software product, as part of the cabin interior styling
process. However, whilst this data provided a fairly accurate representation of
the design of the instrument panel and centre console, it wasn’t of a sufficiently
high quality to be useful for manufacturing purposes.
The data was therefore imported into ICEM Surf, where it was re-created as a
digital surface model on which the ICEM software’s dynamic surface modelling
and analysis tools could then be used to refine the design. The resulting surface
model data was then used in the milling of a physical model for final design
approval, before it was passed on for use in the tooling development process.
Meanwhile, the interior trim components, such as the hard trim for the A, B and C
pillars and the head-lining etc. were designed from scratch using ICEM Surf.
Here there was no clay design model to work from. The entire design
development process was carried out digitally in ICEM Surf.
“The reason that we opted for a totally digital process for the design and surface
engineering of the interior trim components was that we had a shortage of clay
modelling capacity at the time,” explains Ford Werke’s Renn. “To wait for
capacity to become available would have caused delays that we couldn’t afford.
As it is, however, everything went very smoothly. We used ICEM Surf to develop
the surface models from scratch and then used the data to mill physical models
for final design approval. That cut out one stage in the usual design development
process, saving us both time and costs. It also proved the ability of ICEM Surf to
support a completely digital process, from blank screen to Class A surface data”
Digital design verification.
An important aspect of the use of ICEM Surf throughout the design development
of the body and interior of the Focus C-MAX was the software’s ability to support
the design verification process.
Digital design verification requires a full-scale digital model of the complete
vehicle and high resolution, fully textured, rendered and ray-traced photo-realistic
visualisations of the model from a number of viewpoints, all of which ICEM Surf
At Ford of Europe, the verification process for the Focus C-MAX followed a
clearly defined path. Using its advanced, dynamic surface modelling and analysis
capabilities, ICEM Surf was first used to create the Class A surface models.
During this process, the software’s facilities for flush and gap analysis and
surface continuity etc. were extensively used in order to ensure the highest
possible quality surface model.
The digital surface models of the vehicle’s body and interior then underwent
highlights analysis, using ICEM Surf’s in-built analysis tools in order to ensure
that the surfaces met the designers’ visual criteria in terms of highlights and
surface continuity. This was followed by more detailed, local area digital design
reviews, for example where the front wing, bonnet and headlight all meet. All of
this was carried out on standard desktop PCs. The surface model data was then
used in the milling of physical models in hard and soft resins, before a complete
interior and exterior digital surfaces review was carried out.
The final step was to use ICEM Surf to create photo-realistic visualisations of the
whole of the vehicle’s interior and exterior, including paint and materials
simulation as well as different lighting conditions. These visualisations were
displayed at 1:1 scale in Ford’s virtual reality suite using its 7.3 metre x 2.5
metre, multi-channel rear projection PowerWall virtual reality display system.
Although this digital design verification process enabled most of the important
design decisions to be made in the virtual world, a full-scale physical reference
model of the vehicle was also produced for final confirmation.
As Volker Renn explains, “The use of ICEM Surf to create the virtual design
reference model, as well as the Class A engineering surface data needed for
manufacturing, means that we can verify the design for its appearance and
quality in the digital world. It also means we can undertake early review of all
model variants and support the rapid prototyping process. Nevertheless, we also
believe that a final, physical model is still required in order for people to get the
right ‘feel’ for the vehicle, before manufacturing commences.”
Summing up the value to Ford of Europe of the use of ICEM Surf during the
design development of the Focus C-MAX, Renn says, “The main benefits were
that we got a more robust design model, earlier in the development process, by
being able to try more options in less time. This helped us in terms of design and
engineering feasibility. It also helped us to reduce our overall design costs
through more digital design verification and thereby, fewer physical models.”
It also enabled Ford of Europe to add the Focus C-MAX mini-MPV to its vehicles
line-up on time.
NMcL. 1600 words approx. (excl. heading & sub-head).