For nearly a hundred years, car companies have been creating clay models as part of their design process, but why do they continue to use this technology with today’s technology?
The answer is simple. According to Car Insider, digital technology only gives the impression of a 3D image, but in reality it is a 2D image presented in 3D space. At some point you have to see the design in real 3D to see and touch everything.
No matter what they say, clay models bring realism to the design. What looks great in the digital world can be awkward when viewed as a real object, and flexible clay allows you to literally align proportions. It allows designers and engineers to quickly make the necessary changes without drawing detailed sketches. This is especially useful when testing a wind tunnel, where the smallest details can dramatically change the car’s aerodynamic efficiency. But renting a wind tunnel for testing costs thousands of dollars an hour, so quick and accurate solutions are needed. The clay model allows not only that, but also a very delicate style of work that the computer will never be able to cope with.
Finally, the most important advantage of clay is the ability to get a physical version of the model to see how it looks in natural light. After all, the car will spend most of its life in natural light, which means that it must be tested in the sun.
By the way, the first company to use clay in the design process was the American General Motors. In the 1930s, GM Harley Earl, head of GM design, began using it. Large-scale clay models allowed him to see, touch three-dimensional drawings, bring them to life, evaluate real horses. After all, it is much easier և to build a car out of clay than it is to build it with a traditional egg, making panels out of steel.
Modern clay models start with a steel frame on which the wheels are screwed, most of the mold is made of foam. Only the outer parts are made of clay, usually its layer thickness does not exceed 25-50 mm. However, unlike in the 1930s, today clay և digital work together to help designers achieve the perfect result. So, while clay models cost automakers hundreds of thousands of dollars, they are still a necessary part of the car building process, and will likely remain so for years to come.