Aston Martin cars were first immortalized in the movie Goldfinger when James Bond pulled up in his sleek model DB5l. Bond fans will be pleased to know that today, the hundred year old company is just as technologically savvy as Bond himself. The cars have traditionally been produced almost exclusively by hand in their Gaydon, Warwickshire factory. However, that tradition hasn't stopped high tech methods from creeping in around the edges of their design process.
Aston Martin engineers are currently using a 3D printer to produce parts for full-size concept models of their famous cars. Each car goes through multiple prototyping phases before finally being accepted and each prototype is accurate down to the tiniest details.
True to their roots, the Aston Martin prototyping process begins the old fashioned way, with a sketch book. Artists come up with new concepts and then they let technology take over by scanning them into Autodesk Alias. Once scanned, engineers map the sketches into 3D wireframe models. From there the designers produce several mini clay models and use AutoDesk 3D Studio, Alias and Maya to create photorealistic 3D models. That's when the engineers get their first real peek at what the full-size car will look like.
"We need to do quick and dirty visualization daily along with high end visualization to maximize realism in the minimum time," said design operations director Carl Dibsdale. "Everything in the interior of an Aston Martin is also modeled, down to the stitching on the leather."
With the 3D files in hand the engineers create a final prototype, a full-size concept model. The full sized model is partly old-fashioned clay and partly hi-tech innovation since the team uses a Stratasys Fortus Dimension 3D printer to create multiple sections for the full-size Astons.
"The 3D printer helps us design and print highly realistic models in the studio," says Dibsdale, also noting that 3D printing saves them money. Prior to purchasing the Fortus 3D printer, creating one-off alloy wheels for model Astons used to cost around £50,000. Thanks to the 3D printer they've dropped the price on that process to about £1,000.
To celebrate their one hundredth anniversary the engineers at Aston Martin used this process to create a fully functional working concept car called the CC100. It took them five months to design it and when they were finished they took it for a spin on the Nürburgring track in Germany.
You can take a look at the CC100 design process here: