Autodesk has collaborated with Volkswagen on its newly-renamed Innovation and Engineering Center California (IECC) to reconceptualise several components of the electric-infused technical showcase vehicle. And to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of its largest vehicle research facility outside of Germany, Volkswagen Group unveiled a vintage VW Bus retrofitted with technologies for future mobility. Last spring, General Motors used generative design in a proof-of-concept project to develop a lightweight seat bracket prototype for electric cars of the future. The technology is also proving its value for the future of space travel. In November, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory unveiled a generatively designed interplanetary lander prototype that could conceivably carry payloads more than 350 million miles from earth.
The IECC team applied generative design to the wheels of its 1962 Type 2 11-window Microbus, completely rethinking the structure because lighter wheels not only reduce the overall weight of the car, but also lessen rolling resistance on the tyres. The new wheels are 18 percent lighter than a standard set, and the overall development time from design to manufacture was cut from 1.5 years down to a matter of months. The generative design was also used on the Microbus project to re-imagine the steering wheel as well as the support structure for the rear bench seating and the external side mirror mounts.
One of the critical aspects of designing electric vehicles is finding weight savings wherever possible because the less an automobile weighs, the less energy is required to propel it down the road. And more efficient energy consumption equates to greater range per charge, which is one of the most important considerations for consumers when evaluating electric vehicles. One of the key benefits of generative design in Fusion 360 is the ability to make lighter-weight parts, minimising mass and material use while maintaining high performance standards and respecting engineering constraints.
Nikolai Reimer, Executive Director, IECC, said it is an exciting opportunity to see what the centre can come up with. "Today we don’t even understand to the full extent the potential of generative design. In the coming years we’ll have to figure out where human engineering combined with artificial intelligence can lead to lighter, smarter, more sustainable products."
Erik Glaser, Principal Product Designer, Volkswagen Group, said the Group wanted to put a generatively designed object in a place where people will touch it because not only is it intricate and beautiful, but it can also give a sense of just how strong these parts can be.