Now in its sixth year, the Euromold show organizes around an interesting premise, one that seemingly has no parallel in the U.S. Specifically, the trade fair is aimed at moldmaking, but has broadened its scope to include product design and development as well as prototyping and production. In addition, the show has a decidedly automotive flavor.
Witte Design developed the concept for a special area of the show floor dedicated to design and engineering, which showcased the work of various industrial and product designers. Kay-Uwe Witte, president, explains that designers need to be present at a trade show centered on moldmaking because it is now necessary for those who design and engineer products to be aware of the entire production chain.
"Designers have gone beyond the mere creation of ideas and concepts," says Witte. "We are developing realizable products today. This calls for accompanying a product from first thought to series production. The times when industrial design meant developing a nice shell are over. Designs must work, and this can’t be reached without profound technical knowhow."
With this in mind, IMM presents the following collection of highlights from the trade fair, many of which point to the increased role of design and engineering in bringing new products to market.
Concept Vehicles Euro-style
Creating a concept vehicle is the exclusive domain of automotive OEMs, right? Not so in Europe. Several automotive product design and development firms exhibiting at Euromold displayed their own concept vehicles, built on chassis supplied by the majors.
Engineering + Design AG (EDAG—Germany), for example, developed an SUV called the Scout based on the chassis from Mercedes A-class SUVs (see Figure 1). Dubbed a design study, the Scout appeals to a sports-minded, outdoor-loving demographic with its cargo hold and clean lines.
EDAG calls itself an engineering partner for the automobile industry, and its client list reads like a who’s-who in automotive—namely, all major OEMs, both U.S. and European, as well as Tier One suppliers worldwide. The company prides itself on understanding and integrating all aspects of the process chain, from concept and styling through toolmaking and molding.
According to EDAG’s Winfried Knack, its strength lies in this integrated process development, made possible by computer-aided tools. "By logically applying simulation technology, also called virtual prototype and testing, we can shorten development times and secure process efficiencies for the vehicles of tomorrow," he explains. To accomplish these and other feats, EDAG recently partnered with an automotive toolmaker, WMU (Germany).
Rapid Prototyping Perks
Time-to-market pressures are driving demand for rapid prototyping and tooling, according to Terry Wohlers, Wohlers Assoc., who chaired a seminar on RP/RT at Euromold. Judging from the activity at RP/RT supplier stands at the fair, it appears this observation is based on both U.S. and European trends. (For more on the seminar, check the March 2000 issue of IMM.)
Wolfgang Kraschitzer, production manager for Rapid Product Development GmbH (RPD—Austria), explains, "Our customers are now shifting away from the need for simple look-alike prototypes. Instead, we are seeing demand for functional parts and tools that can withstand the typical strains of actual service." One such customer, Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM, recently partnered with RPD to bring its Duke 625 motorcycle to market.
According to Kraschitzer, KTM wanted a functional fairing prototype to perform preliminary tests. RPD built each of the large parts (up to 1000 by 400 by 250 mm) that make up the fairing in several segments using a DTM Sinterstation and Duraform PA material. Segments were then bonded together, lacquered, and used in actual road tests. "KTM was able to conduct its tests well before the injection mold was cut," adds Kraschitzer. "As a result, its engineers were free to add necessary adjustments based on test data without incurring huge costs."
At Jaguar’s Whitley Product Development Centre (U.K.), SLA prototypes played a major role in optimizing vehicle aerodynamics. Using 3D Systems’ SLA 5000, engineers prototyped 3/8-scale versions of complete front and rear suspensions for wind tunnel testing. Results allowed Jaguar to modify the full-size vehicle for drag reduction. SLA prototypes were also used for instrument panel design (Figure 2), wing mirror housings, and body styling components.
Models for Success
Automotive suppliers have long relied on model makers to produce mock-ups of concept vehicles from clay models. The role these suppliers fill today is changing, according to Manfred Mack of Josef Hofmann Ingolstadt (Germany).
"We have developed an extension to our original modeling, or cubing, technology," he says. "Called testcubing, this process builds a model of the complete car body to exact design data out of aluminum, to which we can attach plastic components such as interior trim, instrument panels, and body panels."
To prototype the plastic parts, Hofmann uses both silicone-rubber tools with cast resin and an FDM system (Stratasys). A recent project with Audi to bring its TT roadster (Figure 3) to market made extensive use of both the testcubing model and FDM prototypes.
"Audi uses a just-in-time production system that extends to its product development phase," Mack says. "We developed the testcubing and FDM prototypes for the HVAC bezel on the Audi TT to meet its tight schedule." Hofmann also specializes in models for automotive lighting, and worked with Volkswagen on headlamps for the new Beetle.
New IM designs on display at Euromold were not entirely automotive. For instance, Styles RPD (U.K.) presented an innovative molded oxygen tank, part of a new system for firefighters that’s designed to be lighter in weight, yet just as safe as metal versions.
Even the lobby of the exhibition contained design innovation. Several child-sized mannequins were fitted with molded backpacks (Figure 4), representing a current product on the market in Germany.