PLANT

Styling with tape

Low-tech tool brings precision to 3D visuals.


Tape has many uses in day-to-day activities but it’s also an important tool in automotive design. Ford Motor Co. designers in Dearborn, Mich. rely on it to hone the styling of new vehicles.

The process begins with ideas sketched on paper that are translated to scaled-down clay models and 3D CAD drawings. Eventually modellers use a full-size clay version to work out styling options by carving away or adding lines and accents. It’s at that point tape is introduced.

Designers and modellers use the tape to communicate with each other. As clay vehicle prototypes are created, applying tape to the malleable material shows modellers the lines designers want perfected.

“Great design is about proportions,” said Kemal Curic, Ford exterior design manager. “From the beginning, we need to focus on creating the right structural lines – the skeleton of the car. Then our job is to tailor the vehicle body to enhance the figure.”

Every line is edited to find the perfect balance of concave and convex angles.

Tape brings a measure of precision to a process that results in a life-size 3D visual that can’t be duplicated on a computer screen.

“Tape gives us a defined line that is like a carpenter laying a level line on a building,” said Larry Pelowski, Ford master modeller, exterior design. “When the designers put tape on the model, there is no question what their intent is.”

It can be retaped repeatedly until the designers find the line they want to pursue. A taped line also maintains the integrity of the line’s width. Pelowski said this is especially important when drawing a line with an arch that might otherwise be difficult to keep at a consistent size.

How much black tape do Ford designers use? About 250 kilometres a year.

Find this in the March 2014 issue of PLANT.

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