The Cadillac Elmiraj concept wows just about anyone who looks at it. Little did you know Cadillac used 3-D scanning to build it.
According to the press release from Cadillac, 3-D scanning is a measuring technology often used in art restoration and reproduction. It uses projected light patterns and an advanced camera to capture three-dimensional shapes and translate them into math data that can be manipulated in digital modeling programs — something Cadillac designers and engineers doubtless did a lot to produce the concept.
General Motors’ North Hollywood Advanced Design Studio Director Frank Saucedo said, “With the Elmiraj, we were able to use 3-D scanning as the bridge between traditional hand-sculpting teams who work in clay and digital modeling design teams who work in math. Our ability to scan the clay model with speed and precision and go from the digital tools to the hands of a craftsman and vice versa was extremely valuable.”
Math models serve as the basis for computer-controlled milling and hand-modeling concepts in clay, the release said. The 3-D scanning technology allows designers to quickly reverse engineer and update the master math model, and changes made to the math model are in turn updated in the physical model by milling the clay accordingly, it said.
It’s not a totally new technology for GM designers, who have been using 3-D scanning since 2001, the release said, but its use has previously been seen more on clay interior and exterior properties than drivable concept cars like the Elmiraj.
GM Design Fabrication Operations Director David Bolognino said, “It provides a means of recording every design change with the utmost accuracy. A scan can even reveal the need to take a step back to a previous iteration, and 3-D scanning makes it relatively easy to do.”
The release explained how the process works in a little more detail:
3-D scanners project a light pattern onto the vehicle surface while a camera looks for distortions that represent curves or contours, and records where the object is in space and its orientation. Each scan is digitally stitched together until the complete vehicle is captured. That data can be uploaded into a computer-controlled milling machine to create a full-scale model. A portion of the vehicle can be transferred to a 3-D fabricator for a rapid prototype part.
GM Warren Design Center Senior Manager of Global Surface Creation Bill Mattana said, “Thanks in part to 3-D scanning, we can translate surface from a scale model to a full-size model in less than one week now. Not only is Elmiraj a stunningly beautiful concept car, it served as a tremendous opportunity for extending our use of 3-D scanning.”