Designers of Cadillac’s Elmiraj Used 3D Scanning and Printing

(NYTimes.com) Cadillac’s Elmiraj, a two-door, four-seat concept coupe, was unveiled in Pebble Beach in August at an annual gathering where the wealthiest car collectors, executives and design chiefs meet. The life of the Elmiraj began with pencil and paper in California. Then, the designers start made a clay model from the concept sketches. 3D scanners project a light pattern onto the scale model 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.

The Elmiraj resulted from a choice among several themes for the car. Four or five sketches are usually chosen to be made into one-third-scale clay models. The unsung hero in the creation of concepts is the skilled modeler who helps the designer transfer visual ideas to clay. Digital technology lets designers scattered around the globe look at colleagues’ work on other continents. “With the Elmiraj, we were able to use 3D scanning as the bridge between traditional hand-sculpting teams who work in clay and digital modeling design teams who work in math,” said Frank Saucedo, director of General Motors’ North Hollywood Advanced Design Studio. “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.”

Some concept cars are poorly received, seen as false promises by a company. But the Elmiraj met almost universal approval. “The most beautiful thing to come out of Detroit in years,” raved Autoweek. The late-night television host Jay Leno, a noted car collector, praised the Elmiraj.