The SEAT Evolution Of Car Design
Originally, SEAT set out designing their cars with a set of compasses, rubber erasers and transparent paper. However, this traditional method has evolved due to technology, now allowing SEAT designers to create digital models.
SEAT designers today work using 3D technology, however this was very different 40 years ago when all the designers had to crowd around a large drawing table to compose the full-scale outline of the car. Angel Lahox, SEAT engineer, recounts: "Everything was done by hand with paper, ruler and compass, and of course no image editing programmes". One of the most challenging tasks for designers in the 80's was projecting different sections of the design of the model on top of each other and onto the paper.
The use of technology in the car design process was rather scarce, as Lahox recalls: “There used to be a single computer in each department for the manager’s assistant and the rest of us worked at tables full of drawings and coloured pencils. It looked like an artists’ workshop”. Nowadays, all the designers use tablets and digital pens, allowing for instant changes without the need of numerous modifications with an eraser.
Whilst a new car is being sketched out, full-scale reproductions of the prototypes are made, making it easier for final shapes to be defined. When the Ibiza was in its initial development in the 80s, designers used plaster to create these prototypes. Today, a clay-like resin is used instead "which is much easier to mould" according to Lahoz. Furthermore, technology allows for “great precision, down to a tenth of a millimetre”.
This physical modelling process is now combined with virtual reality prototypes, allowing designers to experience what their designed cabin is like first-hand. Commenting on this, Lahoz stated: "When I began at SEAT, if they had told me how we would be working today, I would have thought it was science fiction”. This new work tool has increased the viability of initial sketches by up to 90%.
The use of virtual reality in the car design process has become a core component in the development stage of a new SEAT model. It is also used in collision testing where 95,000 simulations were run for the latest model of the Ibiza. This is double the amount of collision simulations when compared to the previous era's development stages. This cutting-edge technology can assess almost 3 million elements of a car, which 30 years ago could only 5,000.
Prior to being released to the market, models are subjected to extreme conditions in a series of tests to see how they would handle the elements. However, Jaume Camps, the engineer who leads these extreme tests states that: “Testing has changed a lot over the years”. 30 years earlier, prototypes would undergo dynamic heat tests in the desert and chilling cold tests in the Arctic Circle. However, Camps says that the amount of tests has now risen due to all “the addition of all kinds of electronics and driver aid systems” in modern cars.
With 211 engineers and a surface area of 130,000m2, the SEAT Technical Centre launched in 1975. Today, this centre of knowledge employs 1,000 professionals and has expanded its surface area to up to 200,000m2.
Contact Caffyns SEAT for more information on the SEAT range.