Sebastopol, CA: 7 November, 2013 – When Switch Vehicles needed to develop the frame and instrumentation for its latest fleet of electric vehicles, they turned to consultant Max Sims. As a designer who specializes in automotive design, Sims was the perfect fit for the project, and knew that the Visualizer for Maya plugin from Imagination Technologies would help him realize a vision on a faster timeline than ever before.
Although it has only just shipped its eighth assembled vehicle (the products are also available in kit form for enthusiasts to build themselves), Switch aims to step up to manufacturing 50 cars a month – but for that, it needs a roof. Currently, the cars are supplied as exoskeletons, with an exposed roll cage: in keeping with the company’s green design ethos, but off-putting to some buyers.
“A cloth covering is easy to prepare and assemble,” Sims points out. “And if you think about it, it’s not that unusual: all convertibles have cloth tops, right?”
Maya’s built-in tools enable Sims to simulate the physical properties of a range of real-world materials, from canvas to spandex. But to display his results accurately in the viewport, he relies on Visualizer: an interactive ray-tracing renderer capable of generating soft shadows, depth of field and physically accurate reflections.
Being able to preview reflections accurately is particularly important in automotive design, as Sims explains. “Reflections express the brand identity of the car,” he says. “The way they accelerate and decelerate across surfaces is critical. If you’re designing a sports car, you want a rapid change, to give a dynamic quality; if you’re designing a luxury car, you want slower, more elegant changes.”
But when it comes to designing dashboard instrumentation, there is another, more pressing reason calculating reflections accurately: vehicle safety. Sims needs to ensure that the reflections of the instruments in the windshield never distract the driver from the road ahead.
“Normally, you would have to take the model, adjust something, send it off to ray trace, then wait two minutes before discovering that you have to make another adjustment,” he says. “With the Visualizer, I can change the angles of the instrument panel and windshield in real time.”
For Switch Vehicles, the result is a series of innovative framework and instrument designs, the first of which should be in production in a matter of months. For the consumer, the result is a practical, affordable – and for the first time, weatherproof – electric car.
For Sims, a designer with over 25 years’ experience in the automotive and 3D industries, including stints at Opel, Renault and Alias Research, the result of using Visualizer is a revolutionary change in workflow.
“I can think so much faster,” he says. “Being able to model and render at the same time is an amazing thing to me. I’ve been waiting for this for a quarter of a century.”
Pricing and Availability
Visualizer for Maya is priced at US $295 and can be purchased from here: https://store.caustic.com. Rhino 5.0 customers can download “Neon”, a similar plug-in that uses the Visualizer technology here: https://v5.rhino3d.com/group/neon.
Visualizer is a plug-in that enables artists to replace their rasterized viewport in Autodesk Maya 2012-2014 with a fully ray traced viewport. Visualizer viewports provide a much higher degree of visual fidelity over raster graphics including accurate global illumination, reflections, refractions and shadows. Higher fidelity enables artists to identify and resolve potential problems from the earliest stages of modeling, minimizing the need for time-consuming preview renders and radically streamlining the look development process. Visualizer supports both interactive viewport and final frame rendering. Thus artists can render frame sequences with Visualizer with the confidence that what they see in the viewport is what they’ll get in their final frame.
About Imagination Technologies
Imagination Technologies – a global leader in multimedia, processor, communication and cloud technologies – creates and licenses market-leading processor solutions including graphics, video, vision, CPU and embedded processing, multi-standard communications, cross-platform V.VoIP and VoLTE, and cloud connectivity. These silicon and software intellectual property (IP) solutions for systems-on-chip (SoC) are complemented by an extensive portfolio of software, tools and ecosystems. Target markets include mobile phone, connected home consumer, mobile and tablet computing, in-car electronics, networking, telecoms, health, smart energy and connected sensors. Imagination’s licensees include many of the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturers, network operators and OEM/ODMs. Corporate headquarters are located in the United Kingdom, with sales and R&D offices worldwide. See: www.imgtec.com.
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