Will Carmakers Switch Clay for Computers?

Will Carmakers Switch Clay for Computers?

The 3D printing revolution has transformed a lot of industries, but according to [Insider Business] the car industry still uses clay modeling to make life-sized replicas of new cars. The video below shows a fascinating glimpse of the process of taking foam and clay and making it look like a real car. Unlike the old days, they do use a milling machine to do some rough work on the model, but there’s still a surprising amount of manual work involved. Some of the older film clips in the video show how hard it was to do before the CNC machines.

The cost of these models isn’t cheap. They claim that some of the models have cost $650,000 to create. We assume most of that is in salaries. Some models take four years to complete and a ton of clay.

A film over the clay makes the material look more like plastic or sheet metal. Modern model makers do use 3D printing to make pieces like headlights or logos. They also use 3D scanners to send the model’s shape to designers for feedback. Of course, if the designers make a change, the model must also change.

You’d think computer modeling would be sufficient, but apparently, there’s nothing like seeing the real thing. They also put the clay models in wind tunnels and use smoke wands to study air flow around the proposed vehicle shape. Maybe one day, they will use pure CAD rendering and VR goggles, but today, they are still paying clay modelers to make replicas.

Concept cars have been using 3D printing lately, too. Of course, if they ever do 3D print the entire car, they will have to assemble it from parts or get bigger printers.

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