Last week, we had a first look at how a Proton is designed – from sketches and renderings, to modelling the car in 3D, to then having a photorealistic virtual representation of the car spinning around and being manipulated in real time. Now, we’ll be continuing that journey all the way to the final product.
As a car’s development moves along, the colour and trim team gets to decide on the materials and paint finishes that will adorn the car. These are difficult decisions, with the balance between durability, a pleasing look and feel and of course, reasonable manufacturing costs needed to be kept just right.
The team get their inspiration from print and online media, as well as by visiting motor shows in order to get a sense of the overall market trends. Trim and colour forecasts up to three or four years in advance are also provided by the suppliers.
Paint colour simulations are done on virtual car models using the same Bunkspeed rendering software we showed you last week, and are presented to the cross-functional team.
Once approved, the paints are finalised and sprayed onto cards (viewed under a specially-designed lamp that recreates the colour temperature of daylight), then onto full-sized body panels to get a true representation of the hue before the management signs the colour choices off.
Perceived interior quality is something the team puts a lot of effort in. The choice of materials can make or break the user experience, so picking the right trim is paramount.
To help them make the right choice, the team uses many gadgets to measure surface roughness, scratch resistance, pliancy and glossiness. These measurements are used as reference to back up the experience of actually touching and feeling the materials in person.
A spectrometer is also used to measure colour consistency. The colour of a specific paint can change slightly when applied on metal or plastic, for example, so these measurements are vital to eliminate jarring differences in hue between different body panels. Vendors also require the machinery to produce parts that comply with Proton’s specifications.
Next, we were taken into the virtual reality auditorium, where management and cross-functional teams can see virtual models of the car rendered realistically in real time – again using Bunkspeed – before making important decisions.
Dominating the room is an enormous projector screen, on which these models are shown in a variety of different colours, environments and lighting, all while the “camera” is moving around the model to provide a 360-degree view of the vehicle. It’s an impressive setup, and the designers say it cuts down development time because fewer physical models need to be built.
That doesn’t mean that they don’t get built at all, however. Physical models are still very important, because no matter how close the visualisations of virtual models can come to reality, you still cannot get a proper sense of a car’s form and proportions until you see it in the metal, or rather, clay or resin.
These models also help in areas outside design – on the milling table sat was a scale model of the Suprima S that was used to test the car’s aerodynamics using a wind tunnel at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM). This particular model was painted in matte black in order to better study the airflow around the car.
Eventually, all this development and refinement leads up to the final product, or, more specifically, the final full-scale hard model that is used for the final presentation before the design is signed off. This model is made to full production specifications and is completely representative of the car that will eventually roll off the assembly line.
The model is wheeled out onto a turntable in a viewing hall, where it is bathed in soft, even light. Here, decision-makers can get a good look at the model before signing the design off. In the instance that a second design makes it this far, there’s another turntable for it to be displayed on. There’s even an walled-in outdoor viewing area to showcase the model(s) in natural light while keeping prying eyes out.
And there you have it – the final product, the Proton Suprima S. Looks handsome, doesn’t it? And it’s all down to the tireless efforts of the men and women at Proton Design who work long and hard to make good on that initial spark of creativity while meeting the needs of others who are also developing the car.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this exclusive tour of the Proton Design Studio. And don’t forget to send in your entries for the Proton Design Competition 2014 – there’s just over a week to go before the August 18 closing date, so better hurry!