Automotive design is a complex phenomenon. Starting from just a thought, it all boils down from hundreds of sketches, filtering into tens of design to develop a man machine interface that we witness regularly. Manesar-based Desmania Auto Studio offers B2B design and post design services to the automotive OEMs in India, integrating best of design thinking, knowledge, technologies and manufacturing processes, while maintaining quality and confidentiality in the projects. Auto Tech Review met up with Anuj Prasad, Founder and CEO, Desmania Auto Studio, to know more about the company‘s approach in getting thoughts to life.
INDIAN AUTO DESIGN STUDIO
Desmania was established in the year 1993 and initially focussed on designing products for clients across FMCG and consumer durable segments. It eventually established a fully integrated design studio for automotive segment in the year 2010. In a market, where a good design from OEM is taken for granted, vehicle buying decisions may fluctuate with doomed designs in minutes. Simulation and engineering technologies have helped in a big way for OEMs to turn up with cost competitive models, however, such gains have also increased pressure on the OEMs to turn up with a refreshed model sooner.
As of date, Desmania Auto studio has a team 40 people inclusive of creative designers, who offer services across automotive research and engineering, multiple concept generation, 3D rendering, clay modelling & scanning, styling, class A surfacing, engineering & prototyping and hard modelling. An OEM is always cautious about its new designs getting leaked, thus initially it was challenging for Prasad to win their trust. It is still very crucial to assure them that designs are being developed in India in a confidential manner, said the studio founder.
The job of the designer is to add value to the product with a sharp focus on the DNA of the brand while looking at needs of the target audience. Desmania kick-starts operations with research and data collection to understand what a customer actually looks for in the interior and exterior of a vehicle. Keeping in the mind the requirements, Desmania engages its design workforce to pen down the thoughts. Though the company uses new age technologies, including software from Autodesk and Adobe for rendering sketches along with interactive pen displays & touch screen tablets like Cintiq, free hand sketching is still among the most popular ways to shape up design ideas, said Prasad.
Once the design is filtered by the company management, a concept scale model of 1:4 ratio is developed to check how the vehicle will look post sketching. The scale model undergoes a review with the management before being converted into full-fledged scale model of 1:1 ratio. The volume/ ergonomic model is developed with clay, based on the data received initially, and facilitates a view of exterior and interior volumes involved in the vehicle. This includes features of the vehicle such as cabin, seat design, dashboard design, side panels, door trims, said Prasad. The clay used is basically a composite of various things and is imported as clay billets that are melted in ovens to make the clay malleable. It is then sculpted using special tools to develop a clay buck for which the whole process may take up to two months. The company also tied up with Munich-based firm, Design Consulting to step up its expertise in clay modelling for automotive industry back in 2008.
The rough shape of the vehicle is deployed with CNC milling machines and clay milling machines to have a smoother finishing in the vehicle. Each part of the vehicle, including accessories, is smoothened with highlights using Class A surfacing software like Alias from Autodesk. Class A surfacing is computer aided industrial desgin application undertaken by specialised modellers to give detailed aesthetical reflection quality to the surface, said Prasad. Depending upon the clearances from various departments involved from OEM side, the entire process may take anywhere up to six months, said Prasad. Once the model is launched in the market, the clay model is destroyed and reused as seconds material over the clay buck, as fresh clay is extremely expensive, said Prasad. Over the years, the company has worked with clients like Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai and Renault for various models and is also working with Eicher for its truck range.
Prasad has also started a company named Desmoto Electrics that will precisely focus on electric vehicles. The company will start with e-rickshaws and e-loaders soon. Desmania is currently focussing on developing a bike studio at the facility to help customers opt for OEM level designs, while customising their vehicles using both clay and hard modelling. The bike studio will allow for unique customisation to be co-created by the customers at competitive price, said Prasad.
Desmania has already tied up with Italian design firm Q-id that specialises in motorcycle designing. Creating awareness has been a major issue for Prasad in an industry that traditionally looks at the Italian market for automotive design. However, a lot has changed over the last 10 years as India has emerged as one of the biggest automotive markets in the world. Desmania is also in talks with an automotive design firm based out of Austria to expand its horizons in tractor designing at an advanced scale.
TEXT: Anirudh Raheja