SolidWorks doesn't do Trains, Planes and Automobiles

Blog Post created by 1-4EQZK9 on Jan 8, 2013

Back in the fall of 2002, while working for IDEO, I had an idea to see how far I could take SolidWorks 2003 Beta (SW’s first multi-body version) and I conceived of an idea to create the Aston Martin Vanquish V12 that was featured in the latest James Bond movie “Die another Day.” The SW car model was introduced to the SW community at SWW2003 in Orlando FL in the form of a short movie (Using Lightwave3D) I created and produced wryly named “Kill another CAD”.  After that exercise, I was drained and vowed that I would not again approach such an exercise for the sake of my sanity (and my marriage) but it did prove to be somewhat of sweet revenge having remember the conversion I had with Mike Payne a few years earlier. You see, I visiing the SW office in Concord in the late 90’s and was trying to make a case for the potential of SW to become a product design tool (at that time Alias and ProE were dominant.) I can still remember Mike’s response, in his distinctive Brit accent “Marrrk, we don’t do Trains, Planes and Automobiles!” Now Mike was, and still is, correct that SolidWorks is not a Class A modeler but my point was that consumer product design needed many of the capabilities that were only available in high-end surfacing packages at the time and SolidWorks needed to be augmented with a fair number of those capabilities if it were going to succeed in capturing Industrial Designers and product designers alike - and uh... also show Mike a car executed in SW


It has now been approximately 10 years since my first automobile attempt in SolidWorks and since then there have been some tremendous examples of others in the SW community that have gone on to do to fantastic car modeling with more recent versions (thinking of Matthew Parez and Alex Worsfold.)  Well, I got the bug again about a year ago when I needed to dig into some research on advanced modeling. I was curious at how SW2012/2013 would compare to my SW2003 beta experience when trying to uncompromisingly recreate an existing manufactured automobile body.  Impetuously, I decided to go all the way and simply pick my favorite car design of the last decade. 3qrtr-left- side view.jpgFor me that would have to be the Porsche Carrera GT manufactured between 2004 and 2007 at a cost of $445K USD. Only 1270 were produced with only 604 entering the US. This 2 door convertible can go 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds due to its hefty 5.7L V10 2xDOHC 612 HP engine. Having only seen it once in person, this is a gorgeous automobile which captures the classic essence of Porsche brand design signature.

I obviously set the bar pretty high for myself and worse yet, a convertible, which meant not stopping at just the exterior body design. I set out in the fall of 2011 to collect as many hi-res internet photos as I could. Like the vanquish, I also aquired a 1/18th diecast scale model purchased online at scalecars.com but unlike in 2002 I afforded the luxury of scanning the model using my NextEngine desktop scanner and then importing the mesh directly into SW to use against as reference. mesh in sw.jpgArmed with the scanned mesh and numerous sketch pictures as reference, I set out to build up the design. On and off over the next year I would slowly complete my vision. Finally, this last December, I had pretty much finished my design. What resulted was a 2450 feature multi-body master model, an independent master model for the wheel assembly (configured for a 19 inch front and 20 inch rear rim) as well as separate model files for the seat and steering wheel built using the beta version of Integrityware’s Power Surfacing add-in for SW (Sub-D modeling.) All told, close to 2800 features.



Now I have to say to my fellow SW advanced modelers, unequivocally, once you pass the 1500 feature mark, there is what I call “a parametric point of no return” especially so when creating advanced surface features. In other words, the time it takes to rebuild (robustly) 1500 features is not efficient compared to creating new features to supersede the existing design intent – i.e.  Whack and hack your model with whatever is necessary at that point in the history tree to get your job done. With that said, I was able to at times venture back to the top of my tree when it was totaled about 2000 features and successfully rebuild my entire model, but usually not without some unforeseen influence on a child feature/s that I had to correct.  Building the Seat and steering wheel this past fall using Power Surfacing was a refreshing change and with far fewer features as compared to the  2400 feature car body file. I have to say that Sub-D modeling for objects like these really saves time and puts the word “fun” back into modeling.

The Porsche Carrera GT model has been and an invaluable experience for me to insure that I stay close to the SW issues and modeling experience that many of you face daily in your production environments.  My hope is that it will serve, along with the existing vast collection of customer models, as an important benchmark for our development team to analyze as we strive to continue to improve our advanced modeling capabilities and robustness.


If you would like to download the full model you can get it here.

front 3qrtr smal 8bit.jpginterior-wide small 8bit.jpgFront view - PhotoView-Sun shader.jpgside view - PhotoView-Sun shader.jpg

Rendered images using PhotoView (click to enlarge)

modo-1-3-13 front 3qrtr-8bit.jpgmodo-1-3-13 rear-3qrtr.jpg

Rendered images using Modo 601 and the Moofe Urban Kit (click to enlarge)