Artificial Intelligent in Automotive Design

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In the ever-evolving landscape of automotive design, the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has sparked both excitement and apprehension. As designers, modellers, and enthusiasts, we find ourselves at the crossroads of innovation and uncertainty, pondering the implications of AI on our craft.

The adoption of AI tools like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion have ushered in a new era of creativity within the design industry. These cutting-edge technologies offer designers unparalleled capabilities to iterate, refine, and optimize designs throughout the development process, in ways, and time frames, that would have been simply impossible before.

As a digital modeller I’m also aware of the growing number of 3D Modelling AI platforms that are in their infancy but developing at the rapid rate we are now taking for granted in our field. What does the future hold for digital modellers and how will our jobs and skills change and adapt in this new landscape?

No doubt time will tell. But I, like many of my automotive colleagues, like to think that AI can never be truly creative, appreciate design trends or form subtleties, and consequently there will always be a need for creatives and experts to steer this revolution.

TR25 on display at The British Motor Museum

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Following Makkina’s unveiling of its Triumph TR25 in London in July, the car went on display at the British Motor Museum alongside its original inspiration – the record-breaking ‘Jabbeke’ Triumph TR2, MVC575.

Makkina’s modern day interpretation of the TR2 fits in perfectly, with looks that take cues from its legendary predecessor, combined with modern technology and a contemporary feel that perfectly balances old and new. The TR25 will be on display from late July for at least 8 weeks, so make sure to visit the Sports Car display to see it for yourself.

Makkina TR25 Launch Event

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On July 13 2023 Makkina held its 25th Birthday Party at Woods Quay on the Victoria Embankment, London. It took the opportunity to launch its first concept car in the company’s history, the aptly named Makkina Triumph TR25 in recognition of its birthday.

Taking inspiration from the iconic Triumph ‘Jabbeke’ TR2, the recently launched Triumph TR25 show car was built to emulate one of the most respected cars from the Triumph brand. Featuring a signature ‘25’ in the headlamps to commemorate 25 years of Makkina, the TR25 is a product of many years of professional successes. Sporting the same pale blue-green colour as the original ‘Jabbeke’ TR2, which took part in speed trials in Jabbeke, Northern Belgium, 70 years ago, the Triumph TR25 is a perfect blend of past and present.

Many of Makkina’s clients, colleagues and friends attended the party see the unveiling to celebrate the company’s 25 years in business. The evening turned out to be a wonderful warm and intimate night. One that I shall remember for a long time.

Alias Sub-D Modelling

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Alias Sub Divisional Modelling has been around for a good few years now. But initially I was sceptical of how it would fit into my workflow. Around the time the software first became available I did a couple of tutorials and concluded that I could build a car quicker in Nurbs.

But over the next couple of years the software became more and more adopted and talked about within the car industry. Clients also started requested model programs in Sub-D, something they previously had not specified. So late in 2021 I decided I could no longer ignore this software and took a week off work to learn it. But this time with a much more open mind. This turned out to be fortuitous as by the beginning of 2022 I had to deliver my first Sub-D Model to a client. This was subsequently followed by another couple of client models in Sub-D.

My attitude towards the software has completely changed. Although the workflow initially feels alien to an experienced Nurbs modeller, Sub Divisional Modelling is incredibly simple in terms of tools and workflow. After an initial steep learning curve the software soon becomes very easy to use and very powerful. With delivery of beautiful client models in several of days a reality and something that simply is not possible in Nurbs. Personally it feels amazing to be faced with a new challenge and a new way of modelling after having used Nurbs for over 20 years

As we head through 2022, I can see a that I will be spending more and more time using Sub-D and less and less using Nurbs. As an Exterior Concept Modeller it is only a matter of time before Sub-D is my dominant modelling tool.

2021 The Car Industry Rebounds

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After such a difficult year in 2020, where I spend several months without work, it was hard to imagine that 2021 was going to be the complete opposite. Still if history has taught me anything it is that the Car Industry bounces back big and hard after a period of down time, and that is exactly what happened in 2021.

By the end of January 2021 the projects were pouring in and I found myself in a difficult position of whether to carry on working with Bentley Motors or return to Makkina. I had strong ties to both companies, and over the previous 15 years had found myself invariably working for one or the other. Eventually I decided to part ways with Bentley and start once more working with Makkina.

The rest of the year was a whirlwind as the OEM’s tried to pull their projects on track after months of being on hold in 2020. Personal it was a relief to be so busy and and refreshing to see working from home working so effectively. Something previously not considered possible by most.

As we move into 2022 the projects the industry in showing no signs of letting up. Fingers crossed that we can see an end to the pandemic and start to return to some sort of normality.

Covid-19 Pandemic in 2020

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It’s fair to say that 2020 is a year that no one is going to forget… ever. Like a lot of people, this year has been pretty difficult to navigate and to remain employed. After finishing my contract at Charge Cars I returned to Makkina In November 2019. At the time the studio was very busy with several amazing projects lined up for early 2020.

But as we approached March 2020 these projects suddenly started disappearing as Europe and Asian went into lockdown. Most OEM work dried up overnight and I was facing the prospect of having no work or contract for the first time in my life. I wasn’t alone – many of my colleagues and friends were finding themselves in the same situation.

The next 6 months proved to be extremely difficult and I found myself not working for weeks at a time. Luckily Makkina were still attracting clients and I was also able to pick up a couple of private jobs as well, but it remained difficult both financially and mentally. At the time I assumed everything would return to normal fairly soon, and I just needed to stick things out. But as the year dragged on and a second lockdown loomed it was clear that this wasn’t going to be the case.

By September a few of the OEM’s were re-employing their contractors, with Bentley being one such company. I contacted my old colleagues with the prospect of contracting for them again for the remainder of the year. Fortunately, for me, this has paned out and I have work to see me through til Christmas.

It is now mid November and I wondering what next year is going to bring. There are signs that the industry is steadily starting to build momentum once again. I hope this is the case and 2021 is not a repeat of this year. Fingers crossed!

Bentayga breaks SUV record at Pikes Peak

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The Bentley Bentayga has demonstrated its outstanding performance credentials by claiming the outright record for a production SUV at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

Driven by two-time champion Rhys Millen (NZ), the Bentayga completed the 12.42-mile course in just 10:49.9 – taking nearly two minutes off the previous record by averaging 66.5 mph. Climbing almost 5,000 ft through 156 corners, the Bentayga deployed its unique combination of a 600 bhp, 900 Nm W12 engine, adaptive air suspension, active electric 48V anti-roll control and carbon ceramic brakes to set a stunning new benchmark.

Bentley’s Member of the Board for Sales & Marketing, Chris Craft, comments:

“This record proves the outstanding dynamic ability of the Bentayga – demonstrating again how Bentley Motors is the only automotive company in the world that can combine pinnacle luxury and breath-taking performance. Congratulations to all at Bentley Motorsport and to Rhys Millen and his team.”

Speaking immediately after his run, Rhys Millen commented:

“What an incredible machine. To take a luxury SUV with minimal modifications and be able to drive up this course in under 11 minutes is a huge testament to the performance and level of engineering in the Bentayga. I had a great run – the car was planted all the way up and gave me the confidence I needed to push hard. I’m delighted to take the SUV record for Bentley and for everyone that’s been involved in this project.”

Implementing Virtual Reality into the Design Process

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Over the past few months Bentley Motors has seen a rapid rise in the use of Virtual Reality (VR) within the design process. With the increasing advancements in hardware power coupled with the new HTC Vive headsets and associated technology, Bentley’s designers and modellers have found that VR is now playing a key role in the product development of its new vehicles.

We can now walk around full-size digital models of cars and explore their overall volumes, assess their surface forms and highlights in a way that could never be realised before. This is true game-changers for designers and digital modellers alike.

One of the biggest shortcomings of digital design was scale and context. On a conventional monitor or powerwall it was impossible to truly visualise the scale of the car you were building. But seeing your CAD model rendered full-size in VR has demolished that shortcoming. The VR output from Autodesk VRED is very convincing and is allowing automotive design to progress at speeds and cost-savings that couldn’t previously be achieved. Decisions on exterior volumes and proportions can now be confidently taken without the need for expensive physical models. Likewise the same can be said about various design proposals.

We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg now, but VR is going to permutate all areas of car design, colour and trim specs, customer experience and so forth.This is a very exciting time.

HRH The Princess Royal opens new Bentley Research & Development Centre

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Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal today visited the Bentley Motors headquarters in Crewe to open a new research and development centre – 25 Pyms Lane – which is home to more than 400 Bentley engineers.

The new building covers 7,200 square metres over four storeys and was constructed in just seven months. The building marks the first stage of Bentley’s headquarter expansion which continues to develop the site as an industry-leading, modern, efficient manufacturing facility.

Commenting on the visit, Wolfgang Dürheimer, Bentley Chairman and CEO, said:

“Our research and development centre, 25 Pyms Lane, is where a new generation of Bentleys will be developed, which will continue our commitment to luxury, performance, quality and engineering excellence.”

“We are honoured that we could welcome Her Royal Highness once again to our expanding headquarters, not just to celebrate the continued evolution of our site, but to demonstrate first-hand the skill of our engineers, craftspeople and trainees here in Crewe.”

Before unveiling a plaque to officially open the new building, The Princess Royal visited Bentley’s flagship showroom, CW1 House, and then toured the main production facility where the company’s four model lines, Bentayga, Continental, Flying Spur and Mulsanne are handcrafted.

Her Royal Highness also met both apprentices and colleagues working on bespoke training islands in wood and leather, learning more about Bentley’s innovative approach to training young people and continuously improving the skills of colleagues in all areas of the business.

Bentley’s manufacturing apprenticeship programme has recently received national recognition by The Princess Royal herself, being named outstanding by the inaugural Princess Royal Training Awards, created to recognise learning and skills development in industry. Her Royal Highness will host the Awards ceremony at St James’s Palace in November.

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