Modern automotive designers believe that clay is better than CAD


Modern automotive designers now have at their disposal computers, specialized design software, giant monitors, large-scale 3D printing, computerized milling processes, and fancy virtual reality setups. Yet, the automotive design gods continue to take handful of clay… “Clay is different waxes with some filler in it,” says VandenBrink. “That used to be sulfur, and more recently small glass beads, but it’s mostly waxes. Honestly, it’s hard to know exactly what’s in it, because the formulas are proprietary.” There are half a dozen companies that make plasticine clay suitable for full-scale design modelling (a few car companies make their own blends), and they deliver their product to design shops on flatbed trucks by the pallet-load. In a typical year, Ford goes through about 100 tons of the stuff, formed into hard, extruded cylinders about 3 inches in diameter. When a designer is ready to build, a lump of it is heated to about 66°C (150°F), and applied… Hand modeler applies the clay to 12 to 18 inches of foam cut into the rough shape of a vehicle, which is itself attached to an armature of lightweight aluminum with adjustable fittings. Those fittings are placed to reflect the briefing the designers are working from, so that the model is built with hard constraints showing overall wheelbase, powertrain, and people packaging… The perfect fender curve or B-pillar transition may take shape with a few flicks of the wrist in clay, while trying to get that same level of artistry through computer and stylus might take hours. And once it’s in clay, a whole car can be scanned into a CAD program in an hour and a half. You won’t do that with a stylus, or a mouse, or a fancy 3D headset… At Ford’s studio in Dearborn, there are about 160 modelers, 125 of whom can model by hand, with many being able to drop what they’re doing in a CAD program to scrape clay from a fender. Some come from design schools with specialization in auto design, but others come from the auto-body industry, or from the arts. But not a lot of future designers think about clay on their career path. source:


I love working with automotive clay. Still have my box of rakes, wires and slicks safely tucked away, though I’ve not had the chance to use them for a few years :cry:


Changed to Meta category, as this does not specifically have anything to do with Rhino in any form.


Hi Mitch, what is “meta catagory”? Thanks, Mark
Still what was said was informative for designers be it digital or traditional.

(Bob McNeel) #5

Most of the topics on “Meta” are related to how Discourse works (or is not working.)


Got that , again thanks. —Mark




It’s a similar situation in the theater. Most directors prefer a physical 3D model to a digital one.