Car manufacturers have been deploying 3-D simulation to aid in car design for years. Now one car company-General Motor’s Buick division–is enlisting 3-D simulation technology to digitally test some of the world’s toughest road surfaces in yet another attempt to eliminate design flaws at the earliest stages of development.
Leveraging work done by Mine Tasci, a team of Buick engineers have built a road scanner, which works with cameras and a laser to make a micro-detailed 3-D digital representation of a road surface down to 1mm of fidelity. The engineering team is testing out the technology on a road leading to Mexico’s Cerro del Cubilete shrine– a twisting, rocky path that Tasci says will bring out any vibrations, rattles or other problems with a vehicle design. By recreating this road via simulation, the Buick team is then able to test digital 3-D representations of early Buick models on the digital roads to examine quality and reliability before actually building physical prototypes and subsequently road testing them on challenging terrain.
Just like CFD, FEA and other forms of computer-aided simulation, Buick’s innovative use of 3-D road testing is just another example of how virtual prototyping and simulation are helping engineers refine product designs far earlier on in the process, therefore reducing their reliance on costly physical prototypes and accelerating time to market.