Concept cars are the creative work and the car manufacturers' future vision as expressed by their in-house design studios, but the physical sculpture, the one we see under the spotlight at motor shows, is often the work of design consultancies. It is at these independent studios that the conceptual study, sometimes even a simple sketch, is visualized into a life-size, running prototype.
Artware Concept is not a novice in the field. The company has been in existence since 1995, and the recession forced the firm to re-think its business model, focusing exclusively on advanced concept cars. This choice followed a strategic merger with modeling expert supplier D3, and a name change from Artware Design to Artware Concept.
Outsourcing brings several advantages, chief of which is that the supplier will have tools and expertise to realize the project accurately and in a very short time. As one of the leading European design consultancies, Artware Concept has a similar physical capacity to the OEMs in-house design department. Crucially, it offers a high-level of expertise as its designers, engineers and modelers are trained on the specialist software system ICEM Surf and CATIA ICEM Shape Design. The tool, provided by French firm Dassault Systèmes (DS), not only helps with the creation of surfacing at a high quality level, but also acts as a bridge between the design and engineering departments.
With 75 employees collectively, Artware Concept does now have the capability to work on a prototype from the initial sketch right the way through to create the physical model. "We do the conception and the advanced work, D3 does the finishing and the modeling," explains Alain Grandjean, business development manager at the firm, "We can do everything from the initial sketch to the running car."
This is made possible using ICEM Surf. The sophisticated virtual design and engineering software is almost 20 years old, but Artware has the advantage of being the first company to use the tool. The team is now being trained to work on the next chapter in design and engineering software: CATIA ICEM Shape Design.
DS, which acquired the ICEM company in 2007 after two years of partnership, benefitted from ICEM's experience as a known provider for high-quality surface modeling and rendering solutions. This collaboration meant that the company's 3D and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) expertise was taken a step further in that it could now provide full integrated process performance from the styling concept to the final shape. DS has now recently integrated the whole knowledge ICEM had put in Surf into CATIA, calling it ICEM Shape Design - or CATIA ISD for short. CATIA is DS's pioneer brand and a solution-provider for product design and innovation.
CATIA ISD works much like a traditional surfacing designer tool but offers further advantages. While traditional surfacing works more on concept modeling and rendering, the new software also focuses on the high detail and engineering constraints which enable the vehicle to be ready for production.
One of the most critical steps in creating cars is the ‘class-A surface' process - or the creation of perfect surfaces from styling sketches. ICEM Surf is recognized by the automotive industry as one of the leaders in this field. Now with CATIA ISD, the two firms aim to hit a higher note by bridging the gap between the designer and engineer.
"We have now integrated the mathematics of ICEM Surf within CATIA," says Xavier Melkonian, industrial design business development director at Dassault Systèmes the software firm. Artware is now in the process of transferring to the new system.